Transport improvement could boost US trade

Improving transport infrastructure would make the North of England more attractive to US businesses looking to trade here in the UK as American firms are used to ease of travel, according to the British Consul General in Boston.

Harriet Cross, who is visiting Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle with a trade delegation from New England, said that speeding up the railway link between Manchester and Leeds would provide an “added incentive” to US businesses to set up trade links in Yorkshire. She told The Yorkshire Post: “US clients are used to the ease of travel. They want to get to and from the airport quickly if they are coming here on a visit.

“One thing that is really helpful is there are an increasing number of flights from Manchester, from Edinburgh, to Boston direct.

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“There’s going to be a flight starting from Birmingham. People are understanding that they don’t just have to fly into London anymore.”

Ms Cross, who is originally from Beverley, East Yorkshire, said a failure to speed up the railway link between Manchester and Leeds wouldn’t have a “dramatic impact” in terms of firms coming to the region for business.

“I think it’s an added incentive,” she said. “We can use that as a selling point.”

The British Consul General said the talent coming out of Northern universities is what she is “selling the North of England on at the moment and that’s working”.

However, she urged the North’s universities to raise their profiles in the US.

“It’s important for these universities to make sure they’ve got exposure in the US so that the US doesn’t just think the best universities are in Oxford, Cambridge and London because that’s not true,” she said.

The trade delegation from New England took a tour of Leeds.

“There are lots of synergies between New England and the North,” said Ms Cross. “We’re focusing in New England on life sciences, healthcare and finance.”

She added: “There’s loads of great opportunities for businesses to start working together. There’s lots of interest. The delegates on this trip have been absolutely amazed by Leeds.”

A factor that has really impressed delegates on their visit has been the city’s regeneration.

Ms Cross said: “We came to Leeds and we looked at some of the new shopping centres. These guys were genuinely impressed by what they saw.

“There’s a lot of places in the US but also in New England that have been former manufacturing towns. They have had really hard times in the same way that some parts of the North of England have had.

“To see that regeneration and to look at what the US can learn from the way that the North has managed its finances, focused on education, I think that’s quite interesting.”

The British Consulate General in Boston says it attaches “a lot of importance” to trade links between the US and UK as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. Ms Cross added: “It’s already really strong. The volume of exports from the UK to New England and from New England to the UK is really high.”

One of the main barriers to trade between the two countries is regulation, Ms Cross said. “What we are doing at the moment is looking at where are the trade barriers and can we work on helping get rid of some of them.”

The British Consulate General in Boston is keen for the region’s businesses seeking advice to get in touch.

Ms Cross said: “We can make introductions and make sure that they understand the environment.”

Investigating opportunities

Led by the British American Business Council of New England (BABCNE), and accompanied by the British Government’s Consul General to New England, Harriet Cross, the delegation of US businesses includes Virgin Atlantic Airways and Massachusetts-based PR firm Hollywood Agency.

The businesses are in Leeds as part of a mission to investigate trade relationships and off-shoring opportunities between New England firms and businesses in the Northern Powerhouse region.

During its two-day visit to the city, the Boston trade delegation attended events hosted by law firm Clarion; digital print and technology giant Paragon; education technology business Solutionpath; and global professional services firm RSM.