ONE of the busiest and most scenic parts of the city of Baltimore, Maryland is called Inner Harbor. The visionary project has represented a model for waterfront development and the regeneration of post-industrial port areas around the world.
It was surrounded by the Inner Harbor about a fortnight ago that a renewed dialogue between US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan produced successes. The talks were emblematic of their physical setting in that they resulted in a revamped agreement that resolved long-term trade disputes.
Last June, a long and harmful US whiskey tariff put in place by the Trump administration was lifted by the Biden administration. The injurious tariff should never have happened. The damage he caused to individuals, families and communities across Scotland was profound and still left scars. Some distilleries did not survive. The June announcement was rightly celebrated as a path to recovery, although Covid challenges still cast a long shadow.
The recent agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom last month in Baltimore suspends British tariffs on Bourbon and American whiskey. This is a positive development as it will lead to partnerships and industry collaboration. The agreement also provides for the United States to allow duty-free imports of a capped volume of metals from the United Kingdom. In addition, the UK will lift tariffs on jeans, motorcycles and other products.
While these developments are positive, to be clear, this settlement does not represent a comprehensive US-UK trade deal that was previously sought. In May 2020, the United States and the United Kingdom began a process with the aim of concluding a far-reaching free trade agreement. When President Biden took office, those talks were put on hold. Diplomatic dialogue is always positive and this was the case with the trade negotiations which started in 2020, but the broader objective was also problematic as many questions remained unresolved. There seemed to be a political motivation to seek a big deal for the headlines.
Under the leadership of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, a process has been created to resolve specific trade issues rather than aiming for blanket deals. It was a wise and prudent course, as it allowed the key issues that deeply affected the Scottish, British and American communities every day to find an immediate solution rather than being held back by the weight of overarching goals.
Beyond these high-level trade talks, international players need to better understand the unique economic landscapes of the nations that make up the UK. International entities tend to look at the UK too broadly, just as one would look at the US, Canada and South America too broadly. International governments and overseas companies need to realize that Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England have unique ecosystems, practices, entrepreneurial climates, business networks and governance structures . There is a wealth of background research and analysis available to help deepen understanding of this dynamic.
For example, a valuable strategic report co-produced by the Scottish government with players in the technology sector has just been published. This insightful report outlines a plan to dramatically increase Scotland’s technology exports. As well as setting out a set of goals, a commentary like this provides an informative window for global investors to understand the dynamic tech sector in Scotland and a plan to help this sector thrive.
If you are a Scottish business and wondering where to get support and expertise on global engagement with the US, there are many sources available. You have Scottish Enterprise, GlobalScot, Scottish Development International, Scottish Business Network, UK Department for International Trade, Entrepreneurial Scotland, Scottish North American Business Council, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, British Chambers of Commerce, Scotland House at London, the Scottish office within the British Embassy in Washington, among others. You can also access support from the US Embassy in London, the US Consulate in Edinburgh, the Department of Commerce in Washington, British American Businesses, UK Consulates, Chambers of Commerce of U.S. cities and state and city economic support entities within the governor and mayor. desks.
Ultimately, good trade and increased international business must result in the betterment of the lives of people and communities around the world, especially vulnerable communities and people in the global system. We should build on these recent business resolutions in Baltimore and inspire confidence in the knowledge that there is a large capacity of top-notch professionals ready to serve as we move forward.
Ian Houston has spent his career in Washington, DC as an advocate for diplomacy, trade, global poverty alleviation, and cross-cultural dialogue. He is a GlobalScot and is Chairman of the Scottish Business Network in the US/Americas. He is an Honorary Professor at the University of the West of Scotland. His opinions are his own.