How Donald Trump could be good for East Anglian businesses
- Credit: AP
As the American president declares that a trade deal with the UK is “absolutely possible”, there’s a lot at stake for East Anglian business leaders who export their products across the pond.
Celestion is headquartered in Great Blakenham, but sells most of its range of loudspeaker products not in the UK, but the US. “Putting his personality to one side, I admire what Trump has done to the American economy because it’s very strong,” he said. “Business has been great for us at Celestion, so I can’t complain.”
Mr Wood says he would like to avoid seeing trade tariffs between US and UK - “but we don’t think it will happen.”
He claims Celestion has benefitted from ‘Brand Britain’ - that British reputation for heritage and tradition.
“Businesses which have products suitable for the US market will find Brexit will be good for them,” he says. “But you have to have the right products – ones that are attractive to the US market.
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“America as a nation love to buy brands, and ones with strong heritage. They still look to the UK as the Motherland, especially outside of the big cities.”
But another local entrepreneur with transatlantic business interests, Matt Legon, disagrees with that point.
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Mr Legon’s handmade chocolate company Gnaw started dipping its toes into the American market last April, and now aims to build up its transatlantic trade from £80,000 to £1m a year by 2020. But he doesn’t think Americans have an affection for about ‘Brand Britain.’
“We have been launching our product recently in America at trade shows and I don’t think brand Britain is strong.
“People see that we are British and it doesn’t impress them - it used to, but not anymore. My distributors tell me that Americans only care about Americans. There’s an attitude that Trump is doing what’s right for the US and is not afraid to damage relationships in the process.”
In the seven years since Mr Legon started Gnaw from his factory in Hall Road, Norwich, he has tapped into what he calls a “massive demand” in the export market. 80% of Gnaw’s business is now in exporting, including more than £1m of annual trade in France. “I don’t think the French like the UK either,” he adds. “Britain has a really good reputation in the Far East, and the Middle East. But America is too inwards.”
Despite his views, Mr Legon believes British entrepreneurs shouldn’t be put off from trying to break into the American market. “The US has six times the economy of Britain so there’s a lot to play for,” he said. “But their market is very price sensitive, the margins are very tight.”
Love him or loathe him, it’s difficult to ignore Donald Trump’s more offensive remarks. But Mr Legon says we Brits shouldn’t be worried. “Trump is just putting his oar in because he likes to make a point about everything. He could change his mind about things at any moment, so it doesn’t really matter what he says today.”