6 November 2017

Event, Speech

#CBI2017 Blog: Wilbur Ross speaks at the CBI Annual Conference

United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross speaks about the UK-US future trading relationship  in his first official visit to the UK as United States Secretary of Commerce

#CBI2017 Blog: Wilbur Ross speaks at the CBI Annual Conference

“President Trump has the most rational approach to business of any recent American president.”

Wilbur Ross started his speech by praising President Trump’s approach to trade policy. He stressed that the American people were ready for a change in the United States’ approach to striking trade deals.

Trump’s administration will seek to expand trade in a way that is free, fair and reciprocal, and their main approach will be to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to market access.

Ross added that Trump’s administration will seek to vigilantly enforce the rules. This year alone, they have brought 61% more trade cases than the prior administration did in the same period.

Ross promised that this administration’s actions will increase economic growth, promote job creation, foster reciprocity with trading partners, and strengthen manufacturing trade.

These goals, he said, will be accomplished by focusing on bilateral agreements and negotiations. Trump’s administration believes that such agreements are more likely to breed success as they are simpler and faster to negotiate, and can be tailored to individual needs.

“Our two nations have long enjoyed a partnership… the UK and the US frequently consult with each other on foreign policy issues and global problems… the special relationship between our two countries has been one of the greatest forces in history for justice and peace… together America and the UK are a beacon for prosperity and the rule of law.”

Ross spoke very positively about the UK’s relationship with the US, stressing that “it has never been stronger.” He went on to say that Trump is very supportive of a bilateral trade deal with the UK, and that he has already engaged with the UK’s Prime Minister on this issue.

He reminded the business community that the UK is the US’s seventh largest trading partner, with nearly $230bn in bilateral trade, which is evenly split between goods and services.

However, Ross is confident that the relationship between the two countries can be even stronger, and stated that the United States desires to be the UK’s number one trading partner worldwide.

“While we cannot negotiate a free trade agreement until the UK exits the EU, we are holding preliminary scoping discussions on how to strengthen our economic ties in support of job creation and growth in both our economies.”

The first steps have been taken in what could one day be a successful bilateral trade deal between the UK and the US.

Trump’s administration has set up a trade and investment working group that brings together the UK and the US’s trade and industry experts.

The first meeting was held in Washington in July and they are due to meet again in London next week.

“Discussions with the private sector reveal that the removal of both tariff and non-tariff barriers will be a critical component of any trade discussions between us… we must reduce unnecessary divergences in regulations and standards that many of our companies, especially our SMEs, face.”

Ross said that US businesses have identified many hindrances to increasing US exports to the EU. He believes the UK could help solve these obstacles if we don’t adopt EU trade policy in its entirety.

These hindrances include:

a) limited or no access to the EU standards setting process;

b) a lack of transparency and a lack of ability to participate in the regulatory process;

c) limited role of science in assessing risk, especially in sanitary matters;

d) potential barriers to trade and investment in the digital space;

e) EU tariffs which are generally higher than US ones.

“As the UK stands on the edge of the major changes coming with Brexit, we stand ready to use this opportunity to support our friends across the pond and to deepen our ties even further… but while Brexit opens up the prospect of such trade talks, it also provides a challenge.”

Ross stressed that US businesses are keeping a close watching brief on Brexit developments as their future commercial relationship with both the UK and the EU will be shaped by how these negotiations conclude.  In fact, US businesses have asked the US commerce department to work closely with the UK government to minimise disruption in trade flows between the UK and the US.

He reassured the business community that despite the challenges that lie ahead, the UK will continue to be a valuable partner for the US, both bilaterally and on the world stage.

“US and UK companies both hope for strong potential business with China, but significant headwinds hamper their continued growth.”

Ross concluded his speech by saying that regardless of what President Xi Jinping’s new policy agenda includes, the United States has no intention of withdrawing from Asia. In fact, President Trump has developed an Indo-Pacific strategy that is more geographically inclusive than TPP, and he is determined to enhance the US’s regional relationships in the region.