To say the world is changing might strike one as a banality, but it’s nonetheless true. Few can fail to notice or appreciate the ways in which recent developments in the field of technology have disrupted the business landscape and changed the ways in which we live, work and interact. Political shifts, meanwhile, and tougher economic conditions, have spurred and stimulated debate over the best way to grapple with new challenges and seize opportunities—for those ready and willing to do so.
Through it all, the British-American “special relationship” endures. It’s a well-worn phrase, but one that denotes more than 200 years of stability and mutual success. Through a shared commitment to liberal democratic values, and a desire for security and progress, the partnership between the U.K. and the U.S. has flourished. In fact, the U.K.-U.S. economic relationship is by the far the largest between two sovereign states: the investment made by each in the economy of the other amounts to over a trillion dollars; no other bilateral relationship comes close. Transatlantic trade has brought to the shores of both countries peace, economic prosperity and cultural enrichment. Indeed, the very embryo and basis of Anglo-American relations is trade: the principle of respectful commercial exchange that, when looked at globally, lifted a billion people out of poverty between 1900 and the turn of the 21st century. Business, and the trade that is a natural by-product, is a force for good in the world; it is business that funds innovation, creates jobs and drives prosperity, and no one does it better than these two great nations. This Atlantic union transcends politics, parties and individual leaders. Always, our two countries have found common ground.
As the leading members of the maritime sector meet in New York Harbor on the HMS Queen Elizabeth 2, the largest and most powerful vessel ever built for the Royal Navy, a renewal, revitalization and restated commitment to free trade can ensure a bright future for both our great nations, as well as the wider world, the countries of which have so often turned to the West for leadership. Both the U.K. and the U.S. have rich maritime traditions: London and New York City are leading world cities for maritime finance and law, and both are global centers of culture and commerce. Both, too, are seeing substantial maritime investment: in New York, the NYC Economic Development Corporation hopes to revive the city’s maritime shipping and distribution system, easing congestion and creating thousands of jobs; in London, and the rest of the U.K., industry and government are working together on Maritime 2050 and a new industrial strategy.
In a changing world, nations that share a bond—especially a bond as strong as that shared by the U.K. and the U.S.—must look to strengthen that bond and deepen ties with one another. Nowhere is this more applicable than in the realm of trade, which is the partner to productive diplomacy and military security. The further facilitation of trade will benefit both economies hugely: by refreshing this historic trading relationship and committing to eliminating as many of the tariff and regulatory barriers to trade in goods and services as possible, we can both show ourselves to be constructive and leading members of a mutually respectful—and economically powerful—world trading order.
There is optimism for this on both sides of the pond. At the very highest levels, there has been enthusiastic support for a U.K.-U.S. trade agreement and we are encouraged by the ongoing work of the US/UK Working Group on Trade and Investment. But there are certainly challenges; there are sensitive political questions around market access both ways which will need to be finessed. Both teams should therefore understand the political realities of the other and not seek perfection if it is to the detriment of good. We are optimistic that a deal, or, perhaps better, a series of deals, can be struck and the relationship that is already the envy of the world, can be made even stronger.