Time to strengthen region’s special relationship with US

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This week we are flying the flag for the Midlands at a major business conference in Chicago – our first opportunity to look in depth at UK-US trade since Brexit and President Trump, writes Paul Faulkner.

We are here as part of a Birmingham delegation assembled by the British American Business Council (BABC) Midlands Chapter, based at Birmingham Chamber.

And on Thursday we listened to a panel analysing US-UK-and continental Europe in a debate featuring Carl Tannenbaum, global chief economist of Northern Trust Bank.

The theme of the conference - Navigating the New World - could not be more apposite as we explore “evolving opportunities as the US, Canada and Europe absorb the changes in the realities of economies, trade, borders and governance”.

We believe that the “special relationship” between the UK and the US – and, indeed with Chicago, a twin city with Birmingham - will become even stronger in the wake of Brexit and part of our visit will include cementing the great relationships we already have with North America.

I worked in America and for American companies for a number of years and understand how important business between UK and US is. America is the West Midlands’ biggest export market with goods worth nearly £5.5 billion reaching their shores, according to the latest figures.

However, trade in the other direction – US sales to the West Midlands – is worth just short of £1.5 billion. So there will no doubt be some hard talking from American businesses wishing to address the imbalance.

And this transatlantic conference is providing the perfect platform for examining how we can do business in the midst of broad volatility across markets, economies, governance and borders.   

The BABC “family” comprises 22 chapters across the UK, US and Canada and we are represented here by a large selection of business interests from Birmingham. We are led by Julian Beer, president of the BABC Midlands Chapter and deputy vice-chancellor of Birmingham City University.

Also with us is Steve Allen, the Global President of the BABC as well as partner in the commercial disputes team at Mills & Reeve. There are also representatives from Birmingham Airport, Browne Jacobson, Marketing Birmingham and the University of Birmingham.

We’re here to create more great and lasting relationships with a cross-section of American business and yesterday we had meaningful talks with Illinois Chambers of Commerce after earlier attending a Marketing Birmingham  event which looked at how the UK is gearing up for the future of technology.

And with firms like Jaguar Land Rover at the cutting edge of car production and the development of electric and driverless cars we are well placed to compete in this area.

However, big tests on a global scale are looming and that is why the Chamber in Birmingham is gearing up to meet the demands of trade across the globe while maintaining close links throughout Europe.

Because, while politicians squabble over the terms of Brexit, one thing will be certain – business will continue have their own union across the continent.

The Chamber is establishing an international division that will lead the West Midlands as businesses strive to build stronger relationships with Europe, from Beijing to Sydney, Cape Town to Paris and, of course, Birmingham to Chicago.

To find out more about the BABC, go to https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com/our-group/babc/

Source: Paul Faulkner is chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Pictured (l to r): GBCC chief operating officer Russell Jeans, BABC Midlands president Julian Beer, transatlantic business coordinator Lauren Hunt and Paul Faulkner in Chicago 

Picture by Andre LaCour

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