Dow at the heart of US UK trade development discussions

Andrew Jones, President UK & Ireland, recently led Dow’s participation in the US-UK Business Council board meeting (on behalf of Heinz Haller) as well as a series of high level bilateral meetings with UK Government officials. Direct meetings included an interactive roundtable with Number 10 representatives, the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) and the Department for International Trade (DIT).

The US-UK Business Council is a Washington-based business organization dedicated to strengthening the commercial relationship between the US and the UK. With Brexit discussions becoming increasingly complex, the organization aims to help represent the interests of the business community in the light of the UK’s imminent departure from the EU. Economic ties between the US and the UK are hot topics – and with potential free trade agreements on the horizon it’s an ideal time for Dow to make its voice heard.

The intense schedule of meetings kicked off with discussions with the US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, who asserted that Brexit could provide a great opportunity for the UK. It was swiftly followed by a meeting with the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary, Peter Hill, and Special Advisor on Europe, Denzil Davidson.

“Whilst there is clearly a great deal of political upheaval around key issues such as the different customs partnerships that have been on the table in recent weeks, the advisors assured us that they understood both the risks for business and the frustration of business with the process,” said Andrew. “One interesting point for Dow was that they felt associate membership of REACH could be a real possibility, and one which would be in everyone’s interest. It was also heartening to hear from Advisor on Trade & Europe Bea Kilroy-Nolan that she had used the Dow Silicones supply chain example in discussions about the complexity of the situation, so it’s clear that making such contacts is worthwhile!”

Meetings with the Department for Exiting the EU – including Robin Walker, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – revealed that it felt good progress had been made with the EU on negotiations to date, and that the withdrawal agreement should be in place by October.

A similar positive outlook was offered by Greg Hands, the former Minister of State for Trade and Investment. Although he has since resigned over the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, he took time to explain how the government hopes to proceed with free trade agreements and the options available come next March, noting that the UK will become the second largest trading partner to the EU after the US once Brexit is complete.

“Overall, in contrast to last years’ Business Council Board visit I found that the UK Government was much better informed on the needs of business and was consciously trying to include us in their negotiating positions,” added Andrew. “The Prime Minister’s comment on the importance of remaining in REACH in her Mansion House speech was indicative of that, and something I reinforced with the Ministers I met.

“Whilst there may have been some over optimistic talk from some quarters about the ease with which free trade deals can be negotiated in a short period of time, the fact that we are leveraging contacts with key individuals via such forums clearly has a value: these are relationships we obviously need to maintain as negotiations proceed and as we continue to grow Dow’s UK business strategy.”

Pictured here with Andrew are representatives from P&G, IBM, Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, UPS, MetLife, Citi, Morgan Stanley and Amway as well as the Chamber