I write this as I am flying to Washington once again. I was fortunate enough to be selected to be part of an eight strong delegation, six MPs and two Peers, to attend talks with Members of Congress and representatives of State Governors and the Mayors of substantial cities in the US. The final two days of the visit will be a wider discussion on the current relationship between the UK and the US and will comprise discussions about the economy, security, developments in the middle east and, believe it or not, devolution in the UK.
How did I get on this trip is a fair question. It is a Foreign Office initiative supported by the British American Parliamentary Group who were responsible for my previosu visit to Washington, Pennsylvania and Boston. It would appear that my co-founding of an All Party Group to increase awareness of the issues surrounding a trade deal between the US and the EU played a part.
The appg was founded by myself and John Healey MP and to date we have had meetings with the US Ambassador to the UK, the US Trade Ambassador and the Chief EU Teade Negotiator. All of these meetings provided significant and useful progress reports on the progress of initial talks whilst also highlighting some areas of concern. These meetings, it would appear, allowed me to make an application that met with the approval of the Foreign Office although my own view is that the fact that John Healey could not apply due to family committments gave me an advantage since he is one of the few other MPs to have enjoyed face to face meetings with the trio named above.
The propsed trade traty, formally called the EU / US Trade and Investment Treaty but mysteriously described as TTIP by the Americans is a massive opportunity for both the US and EU. Economists clain that such a treaty would add between 2% and 2.5% to GDP on both sids of the Atlantic. Not bad when you consider that the UK now has the fastest growing economy in the EU and yet our annual growth rate is only 2%.
All the Ambassadors and Trade negotiators that I have spoken to are very positive about the prospects for a treaty before 2015, a prospect no doubt strengthened by the conclusion of a trade deal etween the EU and Canada. Such is the support for such a deal in Washington that President Obama placed achieving such an outcome as a central pillar for his foeign policy during his second term in office. When Secretary of State Kerry came to London it was the first issue discussed between him and the Prime Minister.
On a local level it is also interesting to note that the potential is recognised by the business community with CBI Wales supportiveevour whilst the Farmers Union of Wales and the National Farmers Union are supportive. The FUW in particular are exited by the prospect of exporting Welsh Lamb to the US with Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) who market Welsh meat of the opinion that Welsh Lamb exports could go from £0 to £20m per year very quickly if such a deal was signed.
I will endevour to keep constituens updated on progress durin the next six days. Apart from today I am not missing any sitting days at Westminster since we would be on recess from Tuesday onwards. I do hope that my usual recess meetings and surgeries will not be badly missed - there will be plenty of Saturday morning surgeries between now and Christmas to make-up for my lack of availability this week!