Commentary: Washington employers deepen business ties with UK
By Kris Johnson
When our friends in Britain open their eyes in the morning, many moments of their day look very much like what we see here in Washington.
The Association of Washington Business led a trade mission to the UK in June, and it became apparent during our visit that employers based here in Washington are a vital and vibrant part of life “across the ‘pond”.
When Britons go to work and have a coffee (or tea), many choose a Starbucks drink.
Then when they turn on their computers at work, they probably see a Microsoft logo.
When they come home from work, they may find a few parcels delivered by Amazon (based in Seattle but with 70,000 employees in the UK). And many of the trucks that deliver those packages are made by Leyland Trucks, which is a Bellevue-based subsidiary of PACCAR.
Or if they’re shopping in person, they could head to a British Costco (based in Issaquah), where hot dogs are £1.50, just like they do in the US (except they’re priced in pounds, not dollars). The wine selection we saw at a London-area Costco included Washington-grown and bottled vintages from Chateau Ste. Michelle and other Pacific Northwest brands.
When a Brit visits their local pub, like Fuller Brewing Co. (we visited this London pub founded in 1816), they are enjoying beer brewed with Washington-grown hops and distributed by Yakima Chief Hops.
Boeing planes carry passengers throughout the British Commonwealth and around the world.
These stories could go on and on. The fact is that Washington is one of the most trade-oriented states in the country, and our country has a significant trade relationship with the United Kingdom.
The UK is the United States’ fifth-largest merchandise export market and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship with a good balance of trade.
The US exported $69.1 billion to the UK in 2019, an increase of more than 50% from 10 years earlier. We imported $63.2 billion from the UK in 2019. Our main focus during the June trade mission was to deepen this relationship in the years to come, particularly in Washington State, which has also already strong ties with the UK. The UK was Washington State’s fifth-largest market in 2019 with nearly 20,000 jobs supported by exports to the country.
Agriculture is a growth area. Washington’s wheat, wine, beer and distilled products are all popular in the UK and overseas, for example.
To help build the relationships that can lead to stronger trade ties, AWB’s dozen trade delegation members met with a number of UK officials, including Penny Mordaunt, MP who is Minister of State in the Department of International trade.
Our trade delegation to Washington included Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington Department of Commerce, as well as a representative from the Washington Department of Agriculture.
We have had an ongoing partnership with these two agencies, who also joined us for AWB’s 2019 trade mission to Japan. We will continue to work with our members and other Washington businesses to expand our business relationships with countries around the world.
International trade is one of Washington’s strengths. We’ve got a good thing going, and we’ll continue to spread the word, advocate for trade policy, and build relationships to help Washington and our trading partners prosper – and to help people around the world benefit even more from great things we do right here in Washington State.
Kris Johnson is president of the Washington Business Association, the state chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.