Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May became the first foreign head of state to meet with President Donald J. Trump at the White House. The importance of this visit—in both strategic and symbolic terms—is hard to overstate. Clearly, the United States and the United Kingdom have deep and abiding ties which bind the two nations together.
In the wake of the prime minister’s visit comes an opportunity to build upon this special relationship. The UK has decided to exit the European Union, meaning the UK will likely be free to negotiate its own independent trade agreements before too long.
President Trump said during their joint press conference, as he emphasized how he is encouraged that the UK will be able to sign trade agreements with international partners like the United States after it completes its exit from the EU.
“A free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world, and our relationship has never been stronger.”
And at a gathering of congressional leaders a day prior, Prime Minister May said similarly:
“I am delighted that the new Administration has made a trade agreement between our countries one of its earliest priorities. A new trade deal between Britain and America must work for both sides and serve both of our national interests. It must help to grow our respective economies and to provide the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future for working people across America and across the UK.”
As foremost allies, the U.S. and the UK have fought and won two world wars side-by-side, and then constructed the international institutions which have undergirded decades of peace and prosperity. At the same time, our two nations have become each other’s single-most important international investors. U.S. companies have invested $600 billion in the British market, accounting for nearly a quarter of total U.S. investment in Europe and more than 12 percent of all U.S. investment abroad. This investment is directly responsible for over 1.2 million British jobs. On this side of the Atlantic, the UK is the largest source of inward investment in the United States—accounting for over $450 billion and over 1.1 million U.S. jobs.
Naturally, all of this investment and accompanying trade supports millions more jobs indirectly. These are high-quality, high-wage, and high-skill jobs in industries including manufacturing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, information technology, and financial services.
In this spirit, and in an effort to strengthen the special commercial relationship between the U.S. and UK, the U.S. Chamber launched the U.S.-UK Business Council, which will serve as the leading Washington platform for the American business community to engage with policymakers on deepening trade and investment ties between the U.S. and the UK. The Council also will enable U.S. firms to communicate with officials in London, Brussels, and across the European Union as the UK resets its relationship with the EU.
A U.S.-UK trade agreement would allow the two countries to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers. It would facilitate cooperation between U.S. and UK regulators to streamline regulations and avert unnecessary divergences while maintaining the highest possible health, safety and environmental standards. An agreement would encourage greater cooperation and shared U.S.-UK leadership of the digital economy, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, advanced manufacturing, and other sectors where we enjoy a comparative advantage globally.
There is strong support from the U.S. business community to negotiate such a deal when the time is right. It bears underscoring that negotiation of such a deal in no way diminishes the desire to move forward with efforts to deepen trade and investment ties with the European Union, as well.
The Chamber is eager to work with officials in Washington and London as they pursue ambitious economic and commercial policy agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. We look forward to continuing to work with the U.S. and UK governments to build upon our solid foundations and promote our shared competitiveness.