Free trade agreement with USA could bring £345m boost to region
PUBLISHED: 22:00 01 March 2020
The Government is today launching its objectives for a free trade agreement with the United States – saying it could bring a £345million boost to the East of England.
Talks are expected to begin this month but one Suffolk campaigner has warned businesses not to get "too excited" and says adapting to the US market could bring extra costs.
The negotiating objectives published today set out that any future agreement must protect the NHS and uphold the UK's high standards on food safety and animal welfare.
The free trade agreement (FTA) will also include a chapter on digital trade, to maximise opportunities for businesses to trade digitally across the Atlantic.
Whitehall statistics show the US is the East of England's largest export market, accounting for 14% of the region's goods exports. Some 3,774 businesses in the region collectively export £7,316 worth of goods to the US every minute.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: "We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we're going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry.
"Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.
"Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations."
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: "Striking ambitious free trade agreements with our partners around the world is one of the key opportunities of Britain becoming an independent trading nation once again.
"This deal with our biggest single trading partner will cut red tape for our small businesses, cut tariffs for our great products from dairy to cars and increase growth in all four nations."
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But Julia Ewart, spokesperson for the Suffolk Coastal Liberal Democrats, said: "We must be careful we don't excite people too much - not every product is going to be wanted in these far-flung places and it could be very expensive for the SME environment to get involved if different places expect different standards.
"My biggest concern is that if it is so easy for a man in Framlingham to sell his tractors in the US - or whatever goods that might be - why is everyone not doing it already.
"We also have to remember too that at the end of the year a roller door will come down and the customs union and single market will shut and the trade we do with Europe will change."
Some companies though are succeeding in the US market and looking forward to expanding there.
Ipswich-based juice producer James White Drinks Ltd started selling its Beet It organic beetroot juice and concentrated beetroot sport shots in the US five years ago.
By tapping into one of the largest consumer markets in the world, James White Drinks now sells $750,000 of its Beet It products a year in the US, and demand is growing by around 25% every year.
Managing director Lawrence Mallinson said: "Having taken so long to work out a successful modus operandi in this very large but very challenging market, it is critical that a UK-US FTA is obtained quickly to enable us to capitalise on where we are now.
"More co-operation on organic specifications, food security and labelling regulations should make it cheaper and easier to access the US market."
Colchester-based popcorn brand Retrocorn started selling its retro-style popcorn to the US two years ago and after securing a contract to work with a chain of 250 retail stores, the company has seen continuous demand from US consumers, and the market now accounts for approximately 15% of its total business.
The company has plans to expand its presence in the US through an in-market distributor, and it hopes to grow its seven-strong team by three as part of its US strategy. A UK-US FTA could make it easier for companies like Retrocorn to grow their presence across the US.
Managing director Greg Taylor said: "Our business plan for 2020 is to reach more customers in the US with our products. An FTA could reduce the costs of import and could lead to the products being offered cheaper in the market, making it better value for money to the end consumer and more in line with other products. This would hopefully lead to an increase in sales and export volume for us."