Transatlantic Greater Birmingham

Transatlantic Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Lauren Hunt T: 0845 6036650

Transatlantic Chamber Patrons

Crisis is major challenge for all

By Professor Julian Beer President, Greater Birmingham Transatlantic Chamber of Commerce

As I sit here writing this in self-isolation at home reflecting on the situation, the early indications of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were starting to emerge in early February when the economic slowdown in China – the world’s sixth largest economy – started causing serious problems globally. Disruptions to supply chains led to major

aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical and technology companies all experiencing difficulties. Global brands with a significant Chinese presence issued warnings as the crisis caused store shut-downs and the population stayed at home. Since then, we have seen the crisis spread

across the globe with supply chain disruption, declining consumer demand, and increasing travel restrictions intensifying. At the time of writing, both Canada and the

United States had implemented a temporary ban on entry for travellers from the UK, while the US-Canada border has been closed to all non-essential travel until further notice. Meanwhile in the UK, measures to counter the spread of the Covid-19 continue. Like many governments globally, US,

Canadian, and UK lawmakers have acted to provide support for businesses and individuals affected by the crisis. In the US, a stimulus proposal of almost $1tn has been announced as the government moved to protect household incomes, extend sickness benefits

optimistic about the future. Over my last six years in Birmingham, I have had the privilege of meeting and working alongside some truly inspirational businesses, and have seen first- hand the levels of agility and innovation that will be critical in supporting our ongoing economic resilience. Despite restrictions on movement, processes

are also in place to ensure that supply chains are kept open to maintain cross-border trade and commerce so that economic activity can continue where possible. When the situation improves, we must also

ensure that we are both ready to act, and that our businesses and organisations are ‘recovery- ready’, such as maintaining contact with customers and suppliers and working with them on plans to upscale activity when the situation allows. Assistance is also available from a number of

‘In spite of our current operating environment, I remain optimistic about the future’

and prevent homelessness. In Canada a $82bn (US$56.4bn) aid

package, including $27bn in direct support to workers and businesses was announced. And in the UK, the Chancellor announced state- backed loans of at least £330bn, and a host of other measures such as tax breaks worth £20bn to protect companies and households. While the stimulus packages have calmed

markets, the short and medium-term outlook remains uncertain. However, in spite of our current operating environment, I remain

Car makers pin hopes on US free trade deal

Government proposals for a UK-US trade deal that benefits West Midlands manufacturers and car makers have been hailed by business leaders as an encouraging step. A document published by the Department for International Trade, which

sets out details of the post-Brexit deal the Government hopes to strike with the US, says West Midlands firms including car manufacturers and ceramics and drinks exporters will save money thanks to reduced tariffs. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US could grow the UK economy

by 0.16 per cent and increase wages by 0.2 per cent, the Government claims. A fifth of exports from the West Midlands already go to the US and these

are said to be worth £6.6bn each year. Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers, of which

the Transatlantic Chamber is part, said: “It is important to acknowledge that the document published by the DIT merely sets out a ‘wishlist’ for the UK- US Free Trade Agreement and there will no doubt be many weeks of tough negotiations ahead. “Nevertheless, it is encouraging that the Government is pursuing a deal

44 CHAMBERLINK April 2020

Talking trade: Transatlantic Chamber manager Lauren Hunt (third from left) with members of the visiting DIT team

that recognises the strengths of the UK regions – particularly the West Midlands with its huge manufacturing base which already has a strong trading relationship with the United States.” The Chamber welcomed representatives from the Department for

International Trade to discuss the future Free Trade Agreement. The discussion focused on current challenges with regards to trading in

the US, a timeline of the negotiation process and how more SMEs can export.

universities and educational partners, like my own, to support you to innovate or enable access to new knowledge, skills and funding opportunities that you’ll need moving forward. It is clear that Covid-19 will have challenging

implications for businesses and the economy over the coming months. Within this context it should be remembered that we have strength and solidarity both as a network of regional Transatlantic Chamber members, and as one of 23 offices across the UK, US and Canada. We are committed to doing all that we can to help and support you through this challenging time, and to keep business moving. On behalf of the Transatlantic Chamber, I

wish our valued business community well, and remain available to support you wherever possible.

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