Notes from the CEO
Published: 3 May 2022
The US UK Transatlantic Trade Dialogues - Notes from the CEO
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The second round of the US UK Transatlantic Trade Dialogues took place on 25th/26th April in Aberdeen where I was pleased to represent BritishAmerican Business members in a series of discussions hosted by the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and her counterpart, the US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai.
In advance of the meeting, BAB published a working paper calling for concrete progress on a range of key issues including information and help for SMEs, a new Digital Trade agreement and a shared approach to the regulatory pea soup that is the climate and sustainability space. We were pleased to hear our call for ‘tangible, concrete outcomes’ echoed by all the other business trade associations up in Aberdeen as well as the member companies of BAB who joined us there.
So, what do we expect to happen as a result of these two rounds of talks?
The US and UK government issued a joint statement after Aberdeen (here) which describes further work to be done together in six areas and you would be hard pushed to disagree with the sentiments behind any of the aspirations outlined. What is less clear though is the ‘tangible and concrete’ bit; our hope is still that there is real effort put behind help for SMEs and the digitalization of trading systems…in fact achieving the latter would go a long way to improving the lot of the former. It is good news that the UK-US SME Dialogue will resume in June in Boston; BAB will be there making the case for greater access to information and for a new SME friendly trade facilitation agreement which uses end to end digital technology instead of paper based filings. We will let you know how we get on.
Much of the discussion in Aberdeen centered around the US ambition to have a ‘worker-centric’ trade policy and the UK’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. I reminded the group that, on a global scale, over the last thirty years, trade has been the most powerful instrument for helping workers and for levelling up that there has ever been. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have seen a stunning increase in living standards as a result of globalized trade. But it is also true, of course, that the rewards and benefits of this have not been felt evenly in the developed world, with some places and some groups of people relatively disadvantaged.
This doesn’t make trade inherently bad for workers; what it means is that local and national government need to use their unique powers to make those places and groups targets for investment. This requires supporting infrastructure investment, prioritizing education and training for excluded groups and generally making people and places ‘investment ready’. When this happens, private capital and ambitious businesses will follow at pace. There are so many examples of this happening…in Baltimore and Pittsburgh famously…and in Nashville where BAB will be holding events in May. And in the UK, you can see it in the Freeports initiative, the surge of investment in Teesside, Humberside and a host of other places.
Earlier in April we welcomed the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, to New York and were pleased to bring a group of financial services business to meet the minister at a reception at the British Residence. On the same day we joined a round table held for the Minister with a group of executives from the crypto industry. The Minister was on a listening exercise following his speech on the subject on April 4th (here) in which he set out the message that he wants London to be a welcoming global centre for this new business. It is hard to fault the mission, and there was a warm welcome for the UK government’s position in the room, but the flip side of this ambition has to be robust and even-handed regulation that treats crypto like any other currency or security. The US government set out a more clearly robust approach to regulation in the President’s Executive Order earlier in March. Right now, this feels like a market detached from the operations of regular businesses but who knows how it will develop.
In two weeks’ time we will be hosting our largest and most important in-person event since the pandemic when we welcome people to the Transatlantic Business Awards in Manhattan. Our stellar line-up of Honorees includes Frank Brown of General Atlantic, Ann Cairns of Mastercard and Global Chair of the 30% Club, Irene Dorner, Chair of Taylor Wimpey and Dame Karen Pierce, the British Ambassador to the United States. We couldn’t think of four finer examples of the US UK relationship and supporters of BAB, and we are thrilled to be recognizing their achievements.