As lieutenant governor, I advocate for policies that will grow jobs and help Arkansas compete in a global economy. So when a constituent asked if I would discuss trade with Daniel Hannan, a British Member of the European Parliament, I jumped at the opportunity.
Hannan, an advocate for British withdrawal from the European Union, also known as Brexit, asked what I thought about a potential trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom once the Brexit process is complete. As I told him, while many observers focus on the challenges facing the U.K., I believe Brexit provides economic and strategic opportunities for the U.S. and Arkansas.
Among the many areas of cooperation between the U.S. and U.K., our strong economic ties are a key benefit of our relationship. We are each other’s single largest foreign investor, and the U.K.’s investment in America supports nearly one million jobs across the country. While self-interest is certainly at the heart of cooperation between many countries, there is more to the U.S.-U.K. relationship than simply Realpolitik. The U.S. and the U.K. share a common history, language (sort of), and culture. The American and British people hold a deep collective affection for each other. These commonalities have served as the foundation for what Winston Churchill called the “special relationship” and, as practical matter, make cooperation easier.
Arkansas’s economic connection to the U.K. is already particularly strong. According to data from the British Embassy in Washington, Arkansas exported $149 million in goods to the U.K. in 2016. We also exported $156 million in services in 2015, an increase in 20 percent since 2009. In total, the U.K. was Arkansas’s 6th largest export market in 2015. Arkansas exports food, aircraft, machinery, and much more to the U.K.
Thousands of Arkansas jobs are directly attributable to U.S.-U.K. trade. Specifically, 2,200 jobs are supported by Arkansas’s exports to the U.K. An estimated sixty U.K. subsidiaries do businesses in Arkansas, including brand names like Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites among others, which employ approximately 7,100 workers. I see great possibilities for increased trade between Arkansas and the U.K., especially in agriculture as well as the defense and aerospace industries.
I have had numerous discussions with Karen Bell, the Consul General of Great Britain, who is based in Houston and is responsible for leading the U.K.’s engagement in Arkansas. I have communicated to Karen that Arkansas’s world-class workers are ready to work, and Arkansas is open for business.
In addition to the economic benefit, having closer economic ties with the U.K. is a strategic benefit. The U.K. is a key diplomatic and military partner, and in the same way that we need strong, reliable allies in other parts of the world, we need a strong U.K. Our armed forces work together not only on the battlefield but also at key strategic military bases in the U.K., and we develop weapons hand-in-hand. For example, 15% of the Joint Strike Fighter is made by BAE, a British Aerospace company.
The close degree of cooperation between our militaries and political leaders has endured, and we are better because of it. In times of war, the U.S. and the U.K. have been strong allies dating back to World Wars I and II. That alliance continues today in the War on Terror. Even our level of cooperation in military intelligence sharing is without equal. Increased trade with the U.K. not only means more Arkansas, but a safer and more secure world.
I am not the only one that sees an opportunity post-Brexit. During the 2016 election, then- candidate Donald Trump stated, “We are going to make a deal with U.K. that’ll be great. As you know you’re somewhat restricted because of Brexit, but when that restriction is up we’re going to be your great trading partner.” Even as recently as January 2018, President Trump reiterated that trade with the U.K. would “increase many times” after Brexit.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and others on Capitol Hill agree. Speaker Ryan has referred to the U.K. as “our indispensable ally” and indicated that “We have a special relationship, and I think that does mean we should have a trade agreement with … Great Britain.” And our own Senator Tom Cotton has called for increased trade after Brexit.
The U.K. is the world’s fifth largest economy and our most trusted ally. Whether to consider a formal trade agreement with the U.K. is a win-win. The trade relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. is a natural fit. The time could not be better. With the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U., the door is open for increased trade, engagement, prosperity and security for all of us.
Members of Congress, particularly my former colleagues on the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, should give this idea serious thought and consideration. Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.
Editor’s note: Tim Griffin, R-Ark., is the state’s Lieutenant Governor. He has also served as U.S. Representative for the Second District of Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the author.