The St. Louis Regional Chamber and business leaders from across the St. Louis region hosted Alan Gogbashian, Her Majesty’s new Consul General for Chicago, at Busch Stadium on Monday, February 24, 2020, to discuss all things Brexit and the future of international trade between the U.S. and the U.K. In his new role, Gogbashian leads the British government’s work promoting U.K. economic, commercial, political, and consular interests in 14 U.S. states, including Illinois and Missouri. An important piece of this position is now navigating international trade relations in a post-Brexit world.
The U.K. officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020. Now, the nation has 11 months to establish new trade agreements, political infrastructure, and specific regulatory enhancements. Despite challenges, Gogbashian was optimistic about forging new relationships with international partners, saying the U.K. is “now free to chart our own path when it comes to trade.”
Members of the regional business community, including St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson and Governor Mike Parson’s St. Louis Regional Director Marsha Haefner, showcased the region’s tremendous economic momentum, particularly in the agtech sector. Regional Chamber President & CEO Tom Chulick facilitated the meeting by identifying the impact of exports from Missouri to the U.K.
Missouri and the U.K. have a special relationship when it comes to trade. “The U.K. is the biggest single foreign investor in the U.S. with Missouri being a large part,” said Gogbashian. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri businesses sold $331 million worth of goods to the U.K. in 2019 with a 2.7% increase from 2018 and ranks in the top 10 of our international exports. In 2015, the British Embassy Washington identified Missouri service exports to the U.K. at $818 million and contributing 8,300 jobs. With this in mind, Gogbashian noted the importance of maintaining Missouri and the U.K.’s ties, noting “Not every state has an honorary consul; we see the benefit in our trade relationship with Missouri.”
The Consul General was also thrilled to discuss Missouri’s agtech industry and recognize the potential for collaboration between Missouri and the U.K. in this sector.
Conversation continued throughout the afternoon exploring the evolution of British government trade infrastructure and the complexities of settling on a trade agreement. The group discussed the relatively quick turnaround on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Gogbashian asked the Missouri business leaders’ their views of USMCA adding that commentators mentioned they were surprised by how quickly the decision was made. Regional Chamber Vice President of Public Policy Austin Walker attributes USMCA’s quick finalization to a desire to see North American commerce thrive, saying “USMCA is about businesses coming together to have a voice in order to benefit everyone on all accounts.”
Walker applauded the St. Louis region’s partnership with the British government, noting that engagement has been excellent and expressed support of convoking the business community to proceed and advocate for a defined bilateral trade agreement. Gogbashian explained Britain’s plan to expand government infrastructure by ramping up expertise and bringing on professionals from the private sector, enhancing training for negotiators, and pulling resources from the World Trade Organization.
The St. Louis Regional Chamber supports strengthening trade relations and continuing its partnership with the British government in order to continue building on the momentum the St. Louis region is already experiencing. This is a time of unified growth in St. Louis and by building our international trade partnerships, we can continue to enhance the workforce and infrastructure needs throughout the region and better our international relationships.