CEO Update

Published: 10 June 2022

Is a Hurricane Coming?

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Duncan Edwards
BritishAmerican Business

Having been in London last week I was all set to write my June newsletter to BAB members when news of the Conservative party confidence vote disrupted my thought processes.  Boris Johnson has survived, for now at least. With a win as narrow as this, the usual outcome in the UK is a change, either now or soon.  As far as I know, no Prime Minister has received such a low level of support and gone on to survive but Boris seems to have a remarkable ability to get through scrapes that would be terminal for others.

Everyone will have their own views about the rights and wrongs of the issues facing Johnson, and no doubt current circumstances are not going to be kind to incumbents anywhere. There was a sense a few months ago that Johnson was going to come out of the pandemic in pretty good shape until the news broke about the parties. I was reminded that during the travel restrictions of the last two years, nothing irked our members more than government officials getting exemptions to the various travel bans which were not available to the rest of us.  Passing laws, especially stupid ones, which don’t seem to apply to those that pass them, is never going to be popular!

Here in the US, the political legislative stalemate that has characterized most of the last 50 years (with the occasional exception) continues, and as an incumbent, the administration is facing the full force of voters’ annoyance with the inflation shock.  The fact that fuel and food prices are on the rise everywhere in the world has absolutely no impact on national politics!  The focus here is fully now on the November mid term elections with the consensus view that the Republicans will take the House of Congress fairly handily and the Senate being too close to call.

To the business community, the political challenges for the two governments are secondary to the wider concerns about the economic climate and especially how to call the big issues of supply chain friction, labor market tightness and inflation.  I don’t know whether ‘a hurricane is coming’ as Jamie Dimon said recently, but I know a lot of companies are in storm preparation mode.  We will see.

Members of BAB's Policy Group met with the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon at a special Roundtable and Reception in Washington DC. Photo credit: @ScotGovUSA (Twitter)

At BAB we had a busy May with trips to our affiliate chapter in Houston and, for the first time, to meet companies interested in US-UK trade and investment in Nashville.  The BritishAmerican Business Network has affiliates in 22 cities across the US and UK and we are always happy to make introductions.

I was also in Washington to host a discussion for US companies with First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.  It was an interesting discussion and a strong pitch for investment in Scotland but no mention of a further independence referendum until prompted.

The UK government signed the first of its state level trade and economic MOU agreements with Indiana, which you can read hereWe applauded this initiative, the first of 20 such agreements that the UK is targeting, not because this is any replacement for a trade agreement, but because it sets such a positive tone.  The bilateral industry working groups that the MOU envisages might well lead to new investments by ambitious British or American firms but structured and regular follow up will be crucial in making this, and other, agreements meaningful.

Our regular program of events had some terrific highlights over the last few weeks with our Power of Purpose fireside chat with Carmine Di Sibio of EY a real gem!  We have also been hearing from this year’s recognized businesses in our Transatlantic Growth (TAG) program, thanks to the great support of Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic and HSBC.  You can read about these great stories of real companies making transatlantic investments here.

I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported our Transatlantic Business Awards at The Pierre on May 19th.  We were thrilled to recognize Frank Brown of General Atlantic, Ann Cairns of Mastercard and the 30% Club, Irene Dorner of Taylor Wimpey et al and Dame Karen Pierce, The British Ambassador to the US.  This is such an important event for us and a massive thankyou to everyone who supported BAB and our Honorees.

And finally, we were very happy to hear of the confirmation of Amb. Jane Hartley to her role as US Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.  We work very closely with the US Embassy in London on behalf of our members, and we look forward to engaging with the Ambassador in the coming months. Whatever the economic conditions to come, the US-UK trade and investment corridor will continue to thrive and be a vital part of the business environment for both countries.