Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk during his first official visit to London, Perdue said: “We [the US and the UK] are in the dating phase at present.
“I don’t think it [agreeing a US/UK trade] deal will take too long. But there are negotiations [with Brussels] to be sorted out.”
The boss of the US Agricultural Department (USDA) was speaking last Thursday (October 12) at an official reception to mark his visit at Winfield House; the official residence of the US ambassador – Robert Wood Johnson – in London.
Commenting on Brexit, Perdue said: “We respect the vote and we want to build an even stronger US/UK relationship. Britain and the US are natural allies.”
But Britain “had a lot of work to do” in negotiating its departure from the EU, he added.
The US ambassador highlighted the long-standing special relationship between the US and the UK. “The relationship with the UK will be extremely important to us. We are starting from this base and going a lot higher,” said Wood.
The ambassador said Perdue’s strong farming industry connections – having worked as a vet – would be useful in his new role. “Farmers are very loyal if you have done some farming,” Wood told the reception.
‘Trade barriers to US exports’
Meanwhile, Perdue said, ahead of his visit to Europe, that one of his key objectives was to lift ‘trade barriers’ to US exports.
“We value our close relationship with our European partners, but there is work to be done to address the numerous trade barriers US exporters face in that market,” said Perdue in Washington.
Perdue also highlighted the significance of the European market for exports. “The EU consistently ranks among the US’s top agricultural export markets, and it is the world’s largest importer of food and farm products,” he said.
US agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue – at a glance
- George Ervin ‘Sonny’ Perdue 111, born December 20 1946
- 31st US secretary of agriculture
- Nominated for the role on January 18, 2017 by President elect Donald Trump
- Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011
- Married with four children
- Switched affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1998
- Awarded doctor of veterinary medicine form University of Georgia
- Worked as a vet before becoming the owner of three small businesses
- Served as a captain in the US Air Force
- Remains an active private pilot