26 August 2016 | By Annie Crawford Insight

A special relationship in uncertain times

Insight: Annie Crawford, senior policy adviser, Washington, CBI

The upcoming US presidential elections and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union have created a political atmosphere on both sides of the Atlantic that presents challenges and opportunities for business 

2016 is proving an extraordinary year for politics, policy-makers and the business community in both the US and UK. Tumultuous even. And this was the backdrop for an event hosted by the British American Business Council and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle at which CBI president Paul Drechsler met with a group of business leaders this month.

Yet, amid the uncertainty, one thing remains absolutely clear – the economic relationship between the two nations is massively important, and the measure with which that defines our so-called “special relationship” cannot be overstated.

The CBI’s Sterling Assets report is testament to this strong relationship, and the important role that the business community plays in it. The CBI published the eighth edition of Sterling Assets in August. In it we report that UK investment in the US has reached $449bn and supports over 1 million jobs, nearly a quarter of which are in manufacturing. Moreover, the US exported $123bn worth of goods and services to the UK in 2015, making the UK the fourth largest destination for US exports.

British firms also are responsible for massive research and development spending in the US. In 2013, British companies spent $7bn on R&D, representing 13 per cent of the $53bn spent on R&D by all foreign affiliates in the US. Two-thirds of this spending comes from the pharmaceutical industry, at $4.6bn in 2013.

But, strong though these numbers are, we cannot sit idly by, and this year’s report also comes with a cautionary tale. The domestic decisions the UK and the US make have international implications and it is vital that in these times of turbulence, robust relationships like that of the US and UK are nurtured for mutual prosperity.

Decisions ahead

Turning our attention to the US Presidential elections, we are around 10 weeks from Election Day. Although the campaigns are well underway, this final stretch will prove the stamina and determination of both candidates, and provide further insight into their policy platforms.

In July, we saw Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump confirmed as the Democratic and Republican nominees respectively. The debates in September and October will be the first time we see these candidates head-to-head in this election cycle.

As the weeks towards the election tick down, the CBI Washington team will provide weekly updates on various features of the election. To date, we’ve looked at the primary process, the conventions, and the Electoral College. Looking forward we will consider the role of the Vice President in the elections, the debates, gubernatorial elections at the state level, the lame duck, the role of committee chairs and much more.

Vice Presidential picks can influence the outcome in the VP’s home-state, the debates add colour to the policy blueprints set out by the candidates, and the success of fundraising efforts has a direct impact on campaign strategy. We will seek to shed some light on them over the coming weeks.

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