Briefing | opinion

After Trump's landmark visit to the UK, it's important to keep investment soaring and break down trade barriers, says British international trade secretary

Christopher Furlong/Getty
  • President Donald Trump made his first official visit to the UK last week.
  • Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May voiced support for securing a fair trade deal after Brexit.
  • Dr. Liam Fox, the UK’s international trade secretary, says it’s important that trade between the countries is mutually beneficial.

Last week marked President Trump’s first official visit to the United Kingdom. It is a symbolic moment for both countries, recognising our unique and close bond. It is a chance to strengthen our bilateral relationships across trade, security and defence: the highest level of special, as the President has said.

I was able to greet President Trump as he stepped onto British soil to show him a modern Britain that is outward-looking and ambitious. A Britain that can deliver for the people of both our countries.

And this is the central premise of trade – that it is mutually beneficial. We can see this clearly with the USA. We trade more with the US than any other country. Every day, a million British nationals go to work for American companies in the UK – and a million Americans go to work for British companies in the US. The UK and the US are the largest investors in each other’s economies, with over $US1 trillion invested in total.

I am delighted that both the President and the Prime Minister voiced their support for securing an ambitious and fair deal on trade after Brexit, which, as they have both said, is perfectly possible under the Chequers plan.

In fact, just before the President’s visit, officials from both countries took part in the fourth meeting of the UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group in London. This regular, quarterly dialogue is part of our ongoing relationship to strengthen trade and investment ties as well as providing commercial continuity for US and UK businesses, workers and consumers as the UK leaves the EU.

We share a common history with a foundation based on our shared commitment to business. We recognise, as the largest foreign investors in each other’s economies, that the business community plays an integral role in our relationship. This was exemplified by the companies represented at the dinner with President Trump at Blenheim Palace on his first night in the country.

More broadly, we see the impact of this in sectors such as our creative industry where we and the US share an expertise. It has helped foster exciting creative collaborations such as the filming of HBO series “Game of Thrones” at Titanic Studios in Belfast contributing £110m to the Northern Irish economy.

Both countries also share automotive ties. Jaguar Land Rover’s sales in the US allow them to support more than 8,000 American jobs. This has helped facilitate the upcoming move of their North American headquarters in New Jersey this year which represents a $US30 million investment in the area, creating 400 jobs.

But UK-US trade goes beyond business-to-business relations: 4.5 million Britons visit the United States every year, spending approximately $US14 billion. The UK also received 3.5 million visits from Americans in 2016 with an average spend of £971 ($US1,284) per visit.

All these factors, and many more, mean that US-UK trade is already worth over £150 billion ($US198 billion) a year. To have that as a platform to work from represents a colossal opportunity for both economies and their businesses as we leave the European Union.

There is no doubt that President Trump recognises this opportunity. This is demonstrated, not least, in his assertion that whatever the UK does on EU exit is ok by him as long as the UK can trade with the US.

It would be remiss of me to ignore the issue of trade barriers and tariffs. Like all friends, we disagree from time to time, but we use our close and open relationship to have frank discussions on our differences.

This is a distinct issue, one we are looking to resolve globally through ongoing discussion. While it is vital that the escalation of these tariffs stops, it is also vital not to lose sight of our special relationship’s importance. Our countries have provided longstanding support to businesses both sides of the Atlantic, helping to create the world’s strongest trading partnerships.

Building on the strong foundations of our current business ties, we are committed at the highest level to negotiating a UK-US Free Trade Agreement – which we’re preparing for through our joint working group.

The visit of President Trump provides the opportunity to advance our common interests. It allows us to cement the special relationship that benefits us both. A relationship between two nations who do more together than any others in the world. A relationship that has enabled cooperation across the board on a wide range of hugely important issues, not least on trade.

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