British firms in Pennsylvania employ more than 50,000 people, making Britain the largest foreign investor and job supporter in the state.

By Danny Lopez

In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama announced that he would request formal negotiations toward a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the European Union and the United States. He noted that trade between the two great economic powers supports millions of American jobs. The same is true for the United Kingdom: As a proud and integral member of the European Union, it would benefit greatly from the free-trade agreement.

During the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this week, the president and British Prime Minister David Cameron, along with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, announced that formal negotiations on the trade agreement would begin next month in Washington. We hope the negotiations will conclude in 18 to 24 months.

As the British consul general in New York, I count Pennsylvania as a major part of my consular region. Fifty thousand Pennsylvanians work for British firms, making Britain the largest foreign investor and job supporter in the state. British companies have $7.5 billion invested in the state’s economy. Only New York, Texas, and California have more U.K.-supported jobs.

Philadelphia serves as the U.S. base of numerous British firms, and the trade agreement will no doubt hugely benefit the economy of greater Philadelphia. Aberdeen Asset Management has an office on Market Street; GlaxoSmithKline, long established in Philadelphia, just opened an impressive new building at the Navy Yard, playing a part in the revitalization of a historic part of the city. Other British companies, including the Mark Group, HSBC, British Airways, and Shire, are also thriving in Philadelphia.

And it is a truly bilateral relationship, with Philadelphia-based companies also achieving success in Britain. Consider Aramark, which catered to the Olympic Village last year in London, serving 45,000 meals a day to more than 10,000 athletes. Philly-based companies Cardone Industries and EnerSys have expanded to the United Kingdom in the last few years, too.

As Cameron said ahead of the G8, trade deals such as the transatlantic partnership mean more jobs, more consumer choice, and lower prices. We hope the agreement will eliminate tariffs, liberalize the service sector (especially legal, engineering, Internet, transportation, and financial services, all of which have sizable presences in greater Philadelphia), open up public procurement, enforce intellectual property rights (particularly in pharmaceuticals), harmonize regulations, and achieve mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Huge gains can be made by coordinating regulatory standards for industries like information technology and biotechnology, sectors in which Philadelphia is a leader, as well as finance. Unified standards can help firms streamline operations and sell to more markets, enhancing competition and benefiting consumers.

The United States and the European Union are the two biggest economies in the world. Together, they account for around a third of global economic output and 40 percent of trade. That means the transatlantic agreement will be unprecedented in its scale, scope, and ambition. Our estimates suggest the net economic gain on both sides of the Atlantic could be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. This would have a very positive impact on the Philadelphia region and beyond.

My colleagues and I are always looking for ways to build on the strength of our ties by encouraging British firms to invest and trade in greater Philadelphia, and I believe transatlantic free trade will make this easier. It will not only boost the U.S. and U.K. economies. It will modernize and revitalize the transatlantic relationship and raise the bar for future trade deals. And the regulatory standards it sets will become the standard to which the rest of the world aspires. These are goals we can all get behind.

The United States and the United Kingdom are firmly connected by our shared history, culture, and values. We’ve enjoyed much economic success in recent decades, but also many challenges. One of our foremost priorities is revitalizing the global economy to brighten our collective future. E.U.-U.S. free trade is vital to our nations’ economic success, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will play an integral role in charting our economic recovery and growth.

Danny Lopez is the British consul general in New York.

To read the original article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 20, 2013, click here.

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