Representing Liverpool city region’s maritime sector Chris Shirling-Rooke joined delegates from the UK Government and Maritime UK on board HMS Queen Elizabeth in Delaware. Tony McDonough reports
A high-level UK trade delegation to the US which included the chief executive of Mersey Maritime has urged both countries to strike a post-Brexit Free Trade Agreement that will significantly increase transatlantic trade.
Representing Liverpool city region’s £4bn powerhouse maritime sector Chris Shirling-Rooke joined delegates from the UK Government and Maritime UK on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s flagship aircraft carrier, for the second UK-USA Maritime Nations Forum in Maryland.
Top of the agenda was the push for the UK and US to sign a UK-US Free Trade Agreement if, as expected, the UK leaves the EU Customs Union. The decarbonisation of the global maritime sector was also one of the top priorities.
Mr Shirling-Rooke told both the UK and US representatives that Liverpool had made huge investments into its port and logistics infrastructure and was geared up to be Britain’s main gateway for trade with North America.
“With Liverpool being the UK’s major west-facing port, as chief executive of Mersey Maritime, I felt it essential for our region to be represented on this major Maritime UK and HM Government trade mission to Washington,” said Mr Shirling-Rooke.
“The potential for global trade and investment between the UK and US is immense in the years ahead and our dynamic maritime sector here in the city region stands ready to capitalise on the opportunities presented.
The forum brought together CEOs from across the maritime sector in both countries to focus on two key issues. The first, to identify barriers to increasing trade between the UK and US and the second to seek an agreement on how to respond to the challenge of decarbonisation in the sector.
The UK delegation will be learning from the US experience of free ports, following the British government’s announcement that it will work with industry to create 10 free ports in the UK.
Mr Shirling-Rooke added: “I was particularly delighted that our key strategic partners, Western Union Business Solutions, were able to host a ‘Transatlantic Reception’ on the opening evening. At that event we heard just how significant the business opportunity is for our industry.
“A recent survey showed the UK was the third-highest ranked foreign market in terms of predicted future trade, behind China and Canada. Mersey Maritime, and the centuries of global trading experience it represents, will do all it can to ensure this once in a generation opportunity to maximise global trade between our region and the US isn’t missed.”
Harry Theochari, chair of Maritime UK and head of global transport at Norton Rose Fulbright, added: “The UK and US are natural global partners, and no sector is more global or critical to trade than maritime.
“Preparing to leave the EU has asked new questions of our businesses – and necessitated a different way of thinking about trade and growth markets. Regardless of what happens with Brexit, that fresh thinking can only be a good thing.”