IT IS more than a decade since the unique sight of the Red Arrows – Britain airborne in formation – was last seen in the skies of the United States
Yesterday, they took to the skies in Canada at the Gatineau Airshow, marking the beginning of an 11-week tour of North America, which includes visits to more than 25 cities to promote UK trade and defence interests.
Some states, such as South Dakota, have never seen a UK trade delegation before. This tour is an overdue opportunity to define our future trade and defence cooperation with the US and Canada.
Over the next three months, UK officials and diplomats will travel across these countries – from New York to Washington, Toronto to Halifax, Portland to Seattle – promoting British interests while drawing crowds to see one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab and international trade secretary Liz Truss both landed in North America last week to kickstart the diplomatic dialogue, as this government prioritises its commitment to trade with these nations
Canada and the US are two of the fastest-growing major world economies. The US is the largest single export and import market for British goods, while bilateral trade with Canada jumped by 17 per cent to £20.6bn in the last 12 months.
All this has been achieved already, without the benefit of a comprehensive free trade agreement.
Talking to local businesses, governors, and officials at a state level is where government-backed trade really happens. It’s where trade policy is discussed, where market access deals start, and where UK products are most effectively promoted.
To take just one example, look at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, which is undergoing a billion-dollar expansion to almost double its footprint by 2037. The project requires a number of renovations, presenting a real opportunity for British business.
Trade in travel and transportation services contribute more than £2.6bn for the UK and Canada, while British aerospace exports to Canada jumped by nine per cent to £660m in the last year.
That’s why in Toronto, our trade officials will meet buyers and planners responsible for the airport’s expansion. We’ll make the case for British aerospace and highlight why further enhancing trade relations is a win-win for both countries.
For many, the crucial question that the Department for International Trade has to answer is whether Britain can broker free trade deals with nations such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India when we leave the EU.
To achieve this in a way that benefits British businesses, we must do more than simply visit Washington, Sydney and New Delhi.
We need to forge closer relationships at state, city and town level too, which is why the unique skills of the Red Arrows are being harnessed to engage audiences, consolidate relationships with existing contacts, and access some that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We must use all the assets at our disposal that give us our unique reach globally: our language, legal system, higher education excellence, to name a few.
The Red Arrows tour will come to an end in October – the same month that we leave the EU – and I hope this trip will act as a blueprint for trading success. It is one that couldn’t come at a better time.
Main image credit: Getty