Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the British American Business Council and BritishAmerican Business Inc.


  1.  The British American Business Council (BABC) and BritishAmerican Business Inc. of New York and London (BABi) are the two leading transatlantic business organizations, and represent a major resource for British companies looking to build their business in North America as well as an important partner for the British Government.

  2.  The BABC has 32 chapters and 4,000 UK/US member companies based in major cities throughout the US and UK. BABi, the largest chapter of the BABC and its Secretariat, has more than 1,000 member companies in New York and London.

  3.  Both organizations are dedicated to the promotion of UK/US trade and investment and to helping their British and US member companies build their transatlantic business.

  4.  They represent a key resource for British companies, in that they offer:

    —  A ready-made, high-quality business network of potential customers, suppliers and business partners in the United States:

    —  Expert, local sources of advice and counsel, and a broad range of tailored marketing vehicles and opportunities, to help British companies build their business;

    —  Broad-based business, social and support network of advisors, friends, colleagues and potential employees;

    —  Resource of current and potential investors in the UK economy and partners with British business;

    —  Good access to US business organizations and national/state/local development agencies.

  5.  The BABC was established in 1995. BABi was established in the fall of 2001, as a result of the merger of the British American Chamber of Commerce (New York/London) and the American Chamber of Commerce (UK).

  6.  Particularly because of their bilateral character. BABC/BABi also provide a useful interface between business and government and have undertaken a number of policy initiatives to promote transatlantic and global trade and investment.

  7.  Many senior government Ministers have expressed strong support for the BABC/BABi: for example, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, hosted the launch event for BABi in 2000 at No 11 Downing Street, in the presence of both the UK and US Ambassadors and business leaders.

  8.  Our services to British business as well as our close partnership with government, may have been referenced in the submissions of government departments to the Committee.


  9.  The United States is by far the most business partner of the UK and British business. Given the tragic events of September 11, in New York, Washington and Pittsburgh, this partnership is of greater significance than ever.

  10.  For many years, this was not reflected in HMG's commercial presence in the USA, because it was apparently and erroneously believed that the USA was an easy place for British companies to do business. In fact, it is a huge, complex, challenging and intensely competitive market, which requires the commercial offices of government—as well as companies—to have a high degree of sophistication and determination if they are to enjoy any degree of success.

  11.  In recent years, the quality and expertise of the UK's commercial representation has significantly improved. It is critical that HMG should continue:

    —  To appoint top-quality people from the UK to run HMG's consulates and commercial offices (the role of Director-General of UK Trade and Investment, based in New York, is key to this, and it is critical that the new, high standards established by the current incumbent be maintained).

    —  Continue to improve the quality of the sector specialists and locally-engaged staff that it deploys in its trade/investment offices.

    —  Continue to expand its provision of online support to business.


  12.  The BABC/BABi and their chapters have a good working relationship with HMG's commercial offices throughout the United States, and enjoy the support of Consuls General and their staff on a personal and professional basis as well as the British Ambassador and his staff in Washington.

  13.  But the UK, and British companies, would benefit from an expansion and refinement of this relationship, and of the somewhat less-developed relationship between the BABC/BABi and national/regional government/development agencies in the UK.

  14.  Our 24 US chapters offer British companies an unrivalled transatlantic business network in the USA. Our eight chapters in the UK offers similar access to a network of US (as well as UK) companies in the UK, conducting transatlantic business. This is a competitive advantage of which the UK does not take full advantage.

  15.  Through a more concerted effort to refer British companies to the relevant BABC chapters and to promote the services available through the BABC/BABi to British companies, government/development agencies in the UK and commercial offices in the USA could provide additional business assistance to British companies looking to expand their business in the USA, at no cost to HMG.

  16.  This referral effort could be sustained through the normal course of business (eg. in response to business inquiries to government/development agencies in the UK). It could also be actively promoted, to the benefit of British companies, by more actively involving the BABC/BABi in existing government initiatives (such as Export USA, seminars/conferences, etc) run by these agencies in the UK and USA.

  17.  The relevant government agencies might also consider, on a selective basis, assisting British companies with the very modest costs of joining this transatlantic business network, as one element in their tailored, business-promotion packages (such as Export USA).

  18.  While the main focus of the BABC/BABi's efforts is on helping their member companies build their business, both organisations also work closely with the agencies and commercial offices of the British Government to promote the government's objectives (by, for example, providing high-quality platforms for senior Ministers and officials, promoting government policy statements through our online and hard-copy publications, etc). In addition, we support the government's commercial objectives in the United States through the assistance we provide to our 2,000 British member companies.

  19.  Unlike many other bilateral chambers of commerce operating in the United States, we do not seek or expect any direct subsidy from government.

  20.  But we would welcome a resumption of the modest level of support that the government until recently provided by taking up certain commercial services that we offer (such as sponsorship of our magazine, UK&USA), in recognition of our support for British business and our partnership with government.

  21.  The major recent reduction in this support has increased the financial challenges that we face in seeking to promote British commercial interests and transatlantic business, and was regrettably seen by some of our member companies as indicating as a withdrawal of government support for and interest in our programs.

  22.  Finally, on the policy front, while the UK generally provides a very encouraging legislative business framework, there are certain steps (relating, for example, to taxes on stock options) that HMG could usefully take, which would help to promote the UK's commercial interests in the United States. These issues would, however, require a longer treatment than provided for in this memorandum.


  23.  In terms of the UK's national interest, it is of critical importance that the government continues to further enhance the quality of its commercial representation in the United States.

  24.  The BABC/BABi is keen to further enhance its partnership with government, in order to further our shared interests in:

    —  the promotion of British commercial interests in the United States and the provision of effective assistance to British companies looking to build their business here;

    —  the development of a favourable transatlantic and global policy environment for British companies;

    —  the expansion of UK/US investment flows, and of partnerships between US and UK companies;

    —  the further enhancement of the broad UK/US partnership.

The British American Business Council and British American Business inc.


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Prepared 18 December 2001