Trade agreement unlocks opportunity

The United States and the European Union are the two biggest economies in the world. Together, they account for about a third of global economic output and 40 percent of trade. That means the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and U.S. will be unprecedented in scale, scope and ambition. It represents an opportunity for the largest bilateral trade agreement in the world.

The British-American Business Council’s annual conference will be held May 20-22 in Atlanta. The theme — “Building Platforms for Growth and Success” — seems well-suited to exploring the goals of the trade partnership.

Georgia is an important trading partner between the U.S. and the U.K. There are more than 200 British companies in Georgia with almost 900 facilities in the state. About 60,000 people in Georgia work for British firms, making Britain the state’s second-largest foreign investor and job supporter. British companies have $6.6 billion invested in the state’s economy.

It’s not just UK companies that stand to gain from the trade agreement. The same applies to the many Georgia-headquartered companies that have active UK operations, including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, UPS and Airwatch.

The European Commission estimates passage of an agreement could boost overall trade by as much as 50 percent. U.S. companies ship daily more than $730 million in goods to the EU. In Georgia alone, the trade agreement could boost exports to Europe by nearly a third.

One of the best things about TTIP is that its benefits are balanced on both sides of the Atlantic.

For example, Cellairis of Atlanta is the world’s largest franchiser of wireless accessories such as phone cases, screen protectors and armbands. Cellairis develops products in Georgia, manufactures them in Asia, imports them to Georgia by air freight, warehouses them in its distribution center in Alpharetta, and then ships them by ground and air to franchisees worldwide.

Like Cellairis, British brewer Fuller Smith & Turner Plc. has a thriving business in its domestic market. Both companies want to expand by entering new markets and expanding global trade.

But tariffs, along with customs fees, regulations and excessive documentation requirements, are impediments that slow the efficient and affordable flow of goods and services.

In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, even minor shipping delays or small increases in a product’s cost due to tariffs can mean the difference between satisfying or frustrating a customer. The trade agreement could remove a number of roadblocks and unlock opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

The fifth round of trade agreement negotiations is scheduled this month in Arlington, Va. The outcome is crucial to the economies of the U.S. and Europe. It’s not overstating to say the agreement could be a game-changer for international commerce and Georgia-based companies. Our hope is that the U.S. and EU officials will bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Danny Lopez is director general of UK Trade & Investment USA and consul general at the British Consulate in New York. David Abney is chief operating officer for UPS.