Celebrating the UK/US transatlantic relationship

Hugo Swire spoke on the UK/US relationship at the British American Business Annual Gala Dinner.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Celebrating the UK/US transatlantic relationship

This is my first speaking engagement since the Foreign Secretary asked me to take on Ministerial responsibility for our relations with North America. This brings the number of countries within my portfolio to 60 (plus the Commonwealth): you will be pleased, if unsurprised, that the US has jumped straight to the top of my list of priorities. Before taking on these additional responsibilities – willingly, I should say – I visited Washington DC in July. There, I had useful meetings with my counterparts at State Department and in Congress, and gave a speech at the Carnegie Endowment on British interests in the Asian Century.

I’ll also be in New York later this month for the United Nations General Assembly. I am greatly looking forward to working more with the United Kingdom’s most important bilateral ally.

The Deputy Prime Minister assured us earlier about the powerful bond that remains between our two countries. I strongly believe in it

As we saw again last week at the NATO Summit in Wales, our two countries continue to work closely on important global issues that concern us both – like security – and we welcomed President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel among one of the largest gatherings of international leaders ever to take place here to discuss some of these issues. As the Prime Minister said, the Summit showed a real sense of purpose, resolution and unity. Everyone can see what NATO stands for and why it matters. And it has never mattered more than at this time of great international unrest.

Another important area we collaborate on is our recovery from one of the worst economic crises in our history.

Over the last year the US economy grew by 2 ½ per cent. Jobs are being created and unemployment has been falling steadily.

And I am here today to tell you that the British Government’s long term economic plan is working too. Benefiting all the people of the United Kingdom. The British economy is expected to grow faster than any G7 country this year and the deficit is falling. In June, there were a record 30.6 million people in work. Unemployment has fallen by 437,000, the biggest annual fall in a quarter of a century. Crucially, youth unemployment has fallen by 206,000 – again, the largest annual fall since records began 30 years ago.

Another of my Ministerial responsibilities at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is Commercial Diplomacy, which includes our relations with you, British business. My job is to marshal our world-wide network of posts to increase UK exports and attract more inward investment. And I am particularly proud of the vital contribution our US posts have made to the UK’s economic recovery. In the last financial year, our posts supported well over half of the 500+ investment projects that came from the US. These created over 23,000 jobs in the British Isles and safeguarded a further 9,000. This year, our network has been working hard to achieve even greater success across a number of sectors:

In Boston, for example, our team is leading an initiative on entrepreneurship bringing together US practitioners with UK policymakers. This enables us to learn from successful US entrepreneurial hubs as we in the UK try to support start-ups and small business.

In Los Angeles, we used our global GREAT campaign to showcase British excellence in film to the world, and to a Hollywood industry worth £1bn per year to the British economy.

In San Francisco, this week our Consul General and her team are hosting a UK delegation of female CEOs to the Bay Area – the business leaders of tomorrow – in collaboration with Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, which, we hope will bring about a significant number of business wins and inward investment projects.

And when I was in New York, almost a year ago, I was delighted to announce the finalists for the GREAT Tech awards: an initiative led by our Consul General Danny Lopez to encourage high growth American technology companies to select the UK as a place where they can set up and grow their business.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, our Embassy is coordinating US wide efforts to promote the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - the EU/US Free Trade Agreement that will liberalise trade between the world’s two largest trading blocs.

And it is on this crucial partnership that I wish to focus my remarks this evening.

As the Deputy Prime Minister remarked earlier, promoting freer trade for all is a central part of the UK’s economic recovery plan. Our trade policy is designed to create the conditions for growth; generate jobs; and help us reach our £1trillion export and £1.5 trillion investment targets by 2020, as set by the Chancellor.

The Prime Minister is clear that boosting trade forms a key pillar of our economic recovery. Last year saw real advances in the global trade agenda: there was progress at the WTO and on the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and the EU reached political agreement on a deal with Canada. Once signed, this autumn, this will be the first time the EU has done so with a G7 country – and it will break new ground in areas like procurement, investment protection and financial services.   But achieving an agreement on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations will be the greatest prize of all. It is potentially the largest bilateral trade agreement in the world - and it is the Government’s top trade priority for 2014.

As the Deputy Prime Minister said, an ambitious agreement could add as much as £10 billion annually to the UK economy in the long-term. For the US, it could add £80 billion. And for the EU as a whole, £100 billion.

The Partnership will make it easier - and cheaper - for businesses in the EU to access a market of more than 300 million American consumers; and let’s not forget the 500 million consumers in the European Union for American businesses.

Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic also stand to benefit. An average household could be around £400 better off, through lower prices, greater choice and better jobs. Removing tariffs on US imports could see 10% off the price of cars, 12% off many clothes and 17% on shoes.

But we know some people have concerns about the Partnership – that regulatory standards will be lowered; or that investment protection provisions could lead to a dismantling of the NHS, for example.

I hope that tonight I can help allay some of these concerns. It is important that we do. This deal cannot fail. Quite simply, it means too much to us all.

The UK Government, President Obama, and incoming President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker have all been clear that there will be no reduction in regulatory standards as a result of the Partnership. And it will bring opportunities to reduce duplication or minor differences in how protections are achieved without reducing the overall levels of protection.

And we are working to ensure the Partnership has a balanced approach to investment protection that delivers improved transparency; fairness; and provides confidence for investors while guaranteeing the Government’s right to regulate.

So the Partnership will not undermine public services like healthcare or education. Public bodies will continue to decide who is best placed to provide a service based on the quality and value for money of services they offer UK taxpayers. And it remains the Government’s commitment that the NHS will always be there for everyone who needs it, funded from general taxation, free at the point of use. The Partnership could not – and will not – change this.

The aim is to break the back of negotiations by the end of this year and conclude an ambitious deal in 2015. Our assessment at this stage is that negotiations are broadly on track, but we now need to start making substantial progress on the difficult issues like regulatory coherence, financial services or public procurement if we’re to keep pace with the timetable.

Some of you old enough might remember the advertising slogan for the Hanson Trust: “A company from over here doing rather well over there”. I am grateful for the sterling work of British American Business in keeping with the late Lord Hanson’s sentiment.

I would also like to pay tribute to our hosts this evening for their staunch support in promoting the value of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership on both sides of the Atlantic.

But we need British business to do more. We need British business leaders to go to the US and make the case – with your customers, your business partners, your supply chain, your employees, the Congressional, Federal and State representatives where your businesses contribute to economic growth and prosperity.

Our US network is working tirelessly on this – using every engagement opportunity to plug the Partnership – for example, this week in Miami and last week in Maine. In New York our Consul General is now a contributor on entrepreneur.com and is writing about the Partnership. Our message is getting out there.

And we can help you as you do your bit as well, using our network of Posts and their US business and government links: the British Embassy in Washington DC has produced an excellent report about the trade deal, how it will promote jobs and growth from coast to coast in the US.

Please do get in touch with me or my officials to discuss how we can work together, at our events and on our platforms. The voice of business is always more persuasive than that of government – so please work with

I will finish by saying that I am convinced that the Partnership is worth the effort. We can reach agreement. We can achieve this once in a generation opportunity. And with your continued support at this crucial time – I firmly believe we will.

And when we do, it will only serve to deepen the unique and enduring cultural, economic and political partnership our two countries enjoy. A powerful bond that is vital for us to rise to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

Published 11 September 2014