The US wants to be Britain's "number one trading partner", according to President Donald Trump's top trade envoy.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference in London on Monday (6 November), US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said: "We want to be Britain's number one trading partner. Companies in both countries are well positioned to provide skilled labour, innovation and capabilities for future success.

"I am convinced a historic post-Brexit bilateral trade deal between the Britain and the United States would bolster trade ties."

Ross admitted both parties cannot negotiate until the London and Brussels reach a final Brexit settlement, but revealed that "preliminary trade talks" are already underway via a bilateral trade and working group.

The group held its first meeting in July and will meet again lateral this month, the commerce secretary added.

"These exchanges will form the basis of eventual formal trade talks. London and Washington share common goals, and hope to increase trade once Brexit is done."

Ross also claimed that far from being a beacon of free trade, the European Union was actually a bastion of protectionism.

"EU tariffs far exceed that of the US. EU talks the talk on free trade, but is in actual fact quite protectionist."

Ross added that "despite what challenges lie ahead", the UK has been, is, and would be a major partner of the US both bilaterally and on the world stage."

"We have bilateral relations that place a special emphasis on trade with the UK. It a partnership that will strengthen after Brexit. Great days lie ahead for our two peoples and our countries.

"Britain is the US' seventh-largest trading partner with $230bn (£175.5bn) in bilateral trade per year. Furthermore, both countries are the largest single investors in each other's market to the tune of $1.3trn."

A comprehensive bilateral trade deal between London and Washington will enhance these valuations, he added.

Ross also said President Trump had the most "rational approach" to business and bilateral trade than any sitting US President in recent memory.

"American people were tired and had lost faith in the series of trade deals that had never helped US and had destroyed hundreds of thousands of domestic jobs. President Trump was elected with a mandate for change, and the administration would deliver on that change. The guiding principal behind our actions would be trade deals that are free, fair and equal."