Britain urges US to buy more British weapons

Britain's minister for defence procurement Philip Dunne.
Britain's minister for defence procurement Philip Dunne. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Britain's minister for defence procurement on Tuesday urged the United States to buy more UK-built weapons, saying current trade flows were too much of a one-way street.

The comments by Philip Dunne marked a public nudge by one of the United States' leading allies over the trade imbalance between the two countries.

"Trade often seems to go largely in one direction," Dunne told reporters during his first visit to the United States since the election of a new Conservative-led government earlier this year.

"Put simply, we buy rather more from you than you buy from us."

Dunne said he raised the issue in a meeting with his US counterpart, Defence Undersecretary Frank Kendall, telling him that more could be done to leverage the two countries' closely linked defence industries.

Dunne also met with US Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work to discuss US-UK collaboration efforts, including the cooperative development of the F-35 fighter jet.

Britain was the sixth largest exporter of major weapons between 2010 and 2014, with the United States accounting for 12 per cent of those exports, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The US State Department authorised more than US$4.5 billion (S$6.15 billion) in sales of US military equipment and services to Britain, a 2014 State Department report showed.

Dunne welcomed news that the US Marine Corps was likely to decide soon whether to declare an initial squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets ready for combat.

Britain is one of nine partner countries that funded development of the new warplane, and is expected to build about 15 percent of each of the aircraft.

Dunne said he did not expect significant changes to the UK's F-35 procurement plans ahead of a strategic review to be completed in 2020.

He said Britain expected to begin testing F-35 jets on an aircraft carrier in 2018 and start operational use from 2020.

A US Department of Defence statement said Work and Dunne also discussed Britain's recent pledge to meet NATO's defense spending pledge of 2 percent of GDP for the next five years.