It was a quarter of a millennium ago, and it only lasted a few years, but Florida was once under British rule. Brits, French, Spanish and other Europeans who came here over the years have shared a common goal: trade with the New World. Back then, if we didn’t get our way we tended to make our mark through force — by burning St. Augustine, say, or the White House.
Our methods may have changed, but our motivation has not. Like our American and European partners, we still depend on trade; but nowadays we prefer negotiation to the sword.
Freeing up global commerce remains an issue close to British hearts. This year, the UK holds the presidency of the G8 group of industrialized nations, and we have put free trade at the top of the agenda. A number of agreements are under consideration, including the United States’ ambitious (and laudable) Trans-Pacific Partnership. But the daddy of them all would be an historic deal between the world’s two largest economies: the United States and the European Union.
So we Brits are naturally delighted with President Obama’s announcement, in his State of the Union address, of talks on just such a deal, in the shape of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. But why should Miamians, who often look south to Latin America rather than east to Europe, be interested in such a deal?
Simply put, because the benefits, in terms of jobs and growth, would be spectacular. Together, the EU and the U.S. account for about half of world GDP and one third of global trade: Every day, goods and services worth over $2.7 billion flow across the Atlantic. An EU-U.S. free trade agreement would be the largest bilateral deal in the world. If it is as effective as we hope at lowering barriers to trade, it could add $325 billion or more to transatlantic GDP. In economic terms, that would be like creating a whole new city, larger than Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville put together.
Florida would profit greatly. Already, the Sunshine State has attracted some $13.3 billion of European investment, around 40 percent of all foreign investment in the state. More than 100,000 Floridians depend on this investment for their jobs. Miami, in particular, is wisely positioning itself to capitalize on increased trade. The port’s expansion and redevelopment, to accommodate more and larger vessels, will help secure its future as a preeminent commercial hub.
I am proud to say that British businesses feature prominently among the European firms with interests in Miami. The city is America’s second-largest banking center, so it’s no surprise that big UK banks like HSBC, Lloyds, Standard Chartered and Barclays have significant operations here. But British companies in Florida run the gamut, from the defense contractor BAE Systems to the satellite operator Inmarsat to the drinks manufacturer Diageo. And British trade and investment extends beyond Florida to all 50 states.
To get an impression of the sheer scale of this activity, take a look at our new UK-US interactive trade map, now online at www.ukustrade.com.
My team and I are working with local partners like Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, the Beacon Council and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the UK’s Miami connections with seven days of festivities we are calling BritWeek. From March 7-14, we will showcase a vibrant partnership, spanning business, technology, culture and sport, with events across the city, led by a gala charity fundraiser on March 7 and a business conference on March 8. For a full listing, check out our website and join in.
To encourage further such transatlantic connections, and the jobs and growth that come with them, we must break down the remaining barriers to EU-US trade. It will not be easy. It will require bold compromises on both sides. But it will be worth it — for the U.S., the UK, Florida and Miami.
Kevin McGurgan is the British consul general for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.