British Ambassador Talks Trade in Tallahassee
U.K. Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald speaks to Senate, meets with Gov. Rick Scott
Around the State
United Kingdom Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald talked to lawmakers in Tallahassee Wednesday, stressing one central theme -- trade.
Sheinwald mentioned the strong cultural and defense bonds between the U.S. and its closest ally, noting the importance of the collaborative effort in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, but improving trade ties between the U.K. and Florida was the main reason for his visit.
“We’re both trade-dependent economies -- the U.K. an island nation and Florida, surrounded on three sides by water. Florida’s exports to the U.K. last year totaled $1 billion,” Sheinwald said during a speech on the floor of the Florida Senate.
He later met with Gov. Rick Scott, although some of the governor’s favorite phrases and talking points slipped into his earlier speech to state senators. The difficulty of the “austerity measures” recently imposed in the U.K. by the Tory government means short-term pain, but is necessary to commit to private-sector growth, he said.
“Corporate tax will decrease from 28 percent to 24 percent by 2014, the lowest in the G7. And we are going further, by applying a lower rate of 10 percent on profits from newly commercialized patents. We are also cutting nearly 200 regulatory bodies and agencies. We mean it when we say Britain is open for business,” Sheinwald said.
Scott, not one to shy away from sparking private-sector investment, was high on the chances to build on the trade relationship between the U.K. and the Sunshine State, which is already robust. About 1 million jobs in both the U.S. and the U.K. are dependent upon trade between the two countries, and about 44,000 of those are located in Florida.
“Also each of us talked about how each of us ... are focused on free trade, which we believe will expand trade and build more jobs in the U.K. and Florida,” Scott said.
One of those areas could be on Florida’s Space Coast, where Scott will meet with a British trade delegation next week to promote commercial space opportunities there for companies from across the pond.
The space shuttle program is scheduled to end this year, and local, state and federal officials have been searching desperately for new, high-tech industries and jobs to prevent laid-off shuttle workers from leaving the area and the state. A new commercial space industry is seen by some as a natural fit.
“In Florida we have a lot of aviation and a lot of defense. In the U.K., they have a lot of companies -- they have technology, they have knowledge, they have an interest. So with the changes that are happening on our Space Coast there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for companies from the U.K. to partner with us and hopefully build their companies and hopefully create jobs,” Scott said.
Although Scott’s decision to kill the high-speed rail project connecting Tampa and Orlando disappointed some in Britain -- three firms there were up for bids in the project -- that point was not mentioned by the ambassador. He chose to focus on Florida’s status as a “gateway” for trade with Latin America.
“You are a gateway for the Caribbean and for Latin America; we are the gateway for American international companies who want to trade into Europe,” Sheinwald said. “I think there may be other examples as we look into this more and we develop this spectrum of British companies, and European companies for that matter, that will want to have a foothold here and involve themselves more in the area,” he added.
Florida’s “gateway” status can only improve with the widening of the Panama Canal, set to be completed in 2014, but Florida’s ports must be ready. Scott has pledged $77 million to dredge the Port of Miami the necessary 50 feet to accommodate the larger shipping tankers that will be looking to offload cargo in a transportation-friendly port. Ports in Jacksonville and on the Gulf Coast have also been eyed for dredging.
“It will clearly provide more options for, and will clearly make the transport of merchandise goods -- one would hope, more competitive and cheaper for companies once the expansion of the Panama Canal is opened. And presumably, as you develop more modern and efficient port facilities here in Florida and the Gulf Coast, that’s going to help our shipping industry and our trade services all the way through,” Sheinwald said.
Scott visited Panama recently to tout Florida ports, but there will be plenty of competition from other Gulf states for cargo ships making their way through the canal. In fact, Sheinwald began his trip in Louisiana, where the Port of New Orleans could also see greater trade opportunities once the widening of the canal is completed.
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