February 2016 Policy & Trade Update

Posted February 05, 2016

We are pleased to provide you with our first BABC policy and trade update in the New Year, prepared to provide Chapters of the British-American Business Council (BABC), its members and partners with an update on the Council’s policy and trade activities.

Key Updates and Action Points

BABC Webinars

Last month, we were delighted to hold two special webinars on BABC’s role in helping companies to expand their businesses across the Atlantic. The webinars were being realised in cooperation with ibt partners. The presentation and a recording of the webinar on US exports can be found here; for UK exports here (after entering contact details) or received via policy@babinc.org.

Chapter Policy and Trade Activities

SNABC - BAB Letter to Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney MSP, on TTIP

On 2 February 2016, BAB, together with the Scottish North American Business Council (SNABC) sent a letter to the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney MSP to call on his support for a comprehensive EU-US trade and investment partnership (TTIP) agreement, highlighting how Scottish businesses should be at the front line to access the US market, and deepen the strong trading ties and friendship the two nations have shared for 300 years. To read the letter, click here

BAB New York Ambassadorial Briefing Series with Matthew Rycroft

On 28 January 2016, BAB New York welcomed the newly-appointed UK Ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, at the KPMG office in New York. Ambassador Rycroft talked about issues, including regional conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, global shifts in power and influence as well as the outlook for global businesses risk in 2016.

BAB New York hosted British Consul General’s Reception

On 21 January 2016, BAB New York held an exclusive networking reception at the British Residence in New York. The reception was hosted by Danny Lopez, Her Majesty’s Consul General in New York and Director General of UK Trade and Investment in the United States.

Summary report of the ‘Open for Business’ event ‘What a transatlantic trade and investment agreement means to the UK automotive sector’

On 14 January 2016, BAB published the summary report of the fourth and final ‘Open for Business’ event on TTIP and the automotive sector that took place on 5 November 2015 in Gaydon, UK. To see the publication, please click here.

To read the previous editions on Food and Drink, Life Sciences and Chemicals please click here.

BABC of New England hosted event on TTIP: Opportunities for Massachusetts

On 8 December 2015, the British American Business Council of New England, in collaboration with the Bertelsmann Foundation, organised a panel discussion on the TTIP’s opportunity in Cambridge, Massachusetts. International trade experts from various businesses shared their expertise and discussed the current status of the negotiations and the benefits of TTIP during a rich debate. Panellists included representatives from the US Department of Commerce and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.

Outreach and Media

BAB called on UK government to take a balanced approach when considering changed to the current Tier 2 visa scheme

Following the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s recommendations to tighten skilled worker visa routes to reduce non-EU migration, BAB issued a press release on 19 February 2016 calling on UK government to take a balanced approach when considering changes to the current Tier 2 visa scheme. The press release can be found here.

BAB London delegation meeting with US lead negotiator on services in TTIP

On 15 January 2016, BAB facilitated a delegation meeting with the US lead negotiator on services in TTIP, Thomas H. Fine. Participants included representatives from BAB member companies, the Federation of Small Business and the Institute of Directors.

BAB’s Head of Trade and Policy spoke at TTIP Debate at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

On 11 January 2016, BAB’s Head of Policy and Trade, Emanuel Adam, participated in a panel discussion titled "Sovereignty, Deregulation & Citizen Rights: TTIP and the new neoliberal order". The debate was held at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and organised by Students against TTIP UK as well as the SOAS International Relations Society. Further panellists included War on Want trade campaigner Mark Dearn, Leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett, and Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Warwick and specialist adviser on TTIP to the House of Lords Dennis Novy. The panel was chaired by BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker. The discussion is available as podcast.

News Updates                           

TTIP Negotiations Round 12 in Brussels

The next TTIP negotiations round will take place in the week of 22 February 2016 in Brussels. Negotiations are expected to speed up following Commissioner Malmstroem’s and USTR Froman’s commitment. Expectations are high, as 2016 marks the last year of the Obama administration. According to David O’Sullivan, EU Ambassador to the United States, TTIP could be concluded sometime in 2016 but probably would not take effect until 2018. An official write-up by the European commission for the 11th round that took place in Miami, US, in October 2015 can be found here. For another summary, which was provided by the Bertelsmann foundation, please click here.                                     

UK Immigration

On 19 January 2016, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its recommendations following its review of Tier 2 visa routes. Measures proposed by the MAC include levies on employers who hire from abroad, higher minimum salaries and a clampdown on overseas IT contractors. According to Sir David Metcalf, the MAC’s chair, these measures “should lead to a greater investment in UK employees and reduce the use of migrant labour”. Business had predominantly rejected the recommendations warning that they would hurt companies’ ability to hire the talent they need. A response from the government is expected before April 2016. An article by the Financial Times on the MAC’s decision can be found here.                    

UK Airport Expansion

The expansion of the Heathrow airport in London continues to be a controversial topic. Issues raised for discussion in the last few weeks included the investment of £105 million in creating green spaces around the airport to satisfy opponents from the environmental side. In addition, Lord Deighton, former Treasury Minister has been approached about taking over as the new chairman of Heathrow airport. In lights of potential further delays business groups point to the decreasing confidence of businesses in the government’s ability to act.                               

EU Digital Single Market

To establish a Digital Single Market (DSM) between its member states is one of the main priorities of the European Union right now. It is supposed to cover the economic fields of information, digitalization, telecommunication and technology. The main goal of the Digital Single Market is to enable the European Union to get connected to major economies in those fields.

On May 6, 2015 the European commission published its strategy for the establishment of a Digital Single Market, aiming to remove also digital barriers between the 28 EU member states. Just recently, on January 19, 2016 the European Parliament adopted its position on the Digital Single Market strategy. It is one of the most remarkable advocates of the DSM.                              

Cross-border Data Flows

European Union data protection bodies and privacy regulators will meet in Brussels on February 2 to discuss solutions to the data-transfer agreement that the European court struck down. The decision set off an international data-sharing dilemma. The 15-year-old Safe Harbour framework used by over 4,000 firms to transfer Europeans' data to the United States was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice on October 6 last year due to weak U.S. national security requirements, meaning the data were not adequately protected. Under EU data protection law, companies cannot transfer EU citizens' personal data to countries outside the EU deemed to have insufficient privacy safeguards, of which the United States is one.                                     

EU Referendum

The UK and European leaders may come to an agreement over David Cameron’s reform proposals at the EU summit in Brussels on 19 February 2016, which will allow the referendum to be held in June 2016. However, David Cameron said that he is “not in a hurry” if certain reforms will not be implemented immediately as he is able to hold the EU referendum until the end of 2017.