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Free trade between Maine, U.K. will promote job creation, economic growth

Posted Feb. 11, 2013, at 12:02 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 11, 2013, at 12:41 p.m.

With breathtaking scenery and remarkably kind people at each stop, my first ever visit to Maine left me more impressed than I could have imagined. Each and every person I met welcomed me with the hospitality Maine is known for. As we move forward into 2013, it is in building relationships, knowledge and links between the United Kingdom and the Pine Tree State that will help us increase trade and investment that would be a benefit to both of us.

On Jan. 1, the United Kingdom — which encompasses Great Britain and Northern Ireland — took on a new leadership role in shepherding in a fresh wave of global growth as holder of the G8 presidency. In this role, the U.K. looks for support from its closest economic partner: the United States. Closer to home, the British Consulate is focused on promoting trade and investment between the New England states and the U.K., and it is heartening to see economic activity increasing and starting to rise out of the doldrums of the past few years.

The bilateral trade of goods and services between the U.K. and the U.S. is worth $207 billion, making the U.K. America’s largest trade partner in the European Union and fifth largest in the world. Furthermore, U.S.-E.U. bilateral trade in goods and services in 2011 totaled $986.2 billion, 81 percent greater than America’s bilateral trade with China, despite China having more than double the E.U.’s population.

On the investment side, the U.S. and U.K. remain each other’s single largest foreign investors by investment stock (U.S. investment stock in the U.K. was $549.4 billion in 2011). U.S. investment in the U.K. is nearly eight times what the U.S. has invested in Brazil, 22 times that invested in India and 10 times that invested in China.

A new interactive trade map from the British Embassy helps the visualization of the U.K.-U.S. trade relationship, and just how much money is actually involved. The map can be viewed at www.ukustrade.com/map.

Building on this strong platform, the U.K. is anxious to see negotiations on a free trade agreement commence between the two economic giants: the E.U. and the U.S. Although a far-reaching free trade agreement will take time to put together, the benefits on both sides of the Atlantic could be substantial. Full liberalization, including the elimination of tariffs, could add 2 percent to gross domestic product on both sides of the Atlantic.

A growing economy means greater opportunity for domestic job growth. As the economy in the U.K. improves, more Americans will reap the benefits: Some 1 million people in the U.S. go to work for a British company each day. In Maine, U.K. companies employ almost 2,000 people, and the U.K. is the fourth-largest foreign employer.

Goods from the U.S. are a vital part of life in the U.K. Exports to the U.K. accounted for $128 million in 2011 from Maine alone. Computer and electronic parts from Maine help move the world into the future, while primary metals help to build the bridges, buildings and transportation of today. Connoisseurs in the U.K. even enjoyed nearly 620,000 pounds of Maine lobster in 2011.

Our hope is for negotiations on the free trade agreement to begin in earnest by the mid-point of this year, with the following 18 to 24 months proving critical as a deal is worked out. Such an all-encompassing agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. — each with an economy worth around $15 trillion — will not happen overnight. Concessions will have to be made on each side. But the ultimate goal of incentivizing growth and driving prosperity mark the value of a comprehensive agreement.

There is much to gain on all sides as the economy continues to build itself back up. New tools, such as the interactive trade map from the British Embassy in Washington, allow for all to see how the economies of the U.S. and the U.K. are dynamically intertwined. By moving forward with a new impetus for free trade in the U.S.-E.U. free trade agreement, we can realize even greater potential for growth and jobs.

In my short time in Maine, I saw all the ingredients for healthy trade and investment, building on the strengths of business and community on both sides of the Atlantic. Working with state leaders in politics and business, as well as the Maine International Trade Center, the relationship between the U.K. and Maine should continue to grow in the future.

Susie Kitchens is the British consul general to New England.

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