As the United Kingdom proceeds with plans for its departure from the European Union in March 2019, U.S. electroindustry manufacturers may wonder about relevance for their business. In 2017, U.S. shipments of NEMA scope products to the U.K. were valued at approximately $1 billion.
U.S. and U.K. trade officials have met several times over the past 18 months, most recently in early November, to prepare for possible negotiations on a trade agreement. So far, each government has published a guide to online sales in the counterpart country. (Check out the U.S. guide to the U.K. here.) Washington and London are soliciting any additional ideas from businesses, especially small and medium-sized companies, who are interested in reducing trade barriers in the near-term.
Nevertheless, at present, the draft agreement for Britain’s exit from the EU (“Brexit”) by would keep the country within the EU’s customs union until 2021, largely maintaining alignment with Brussels’ trade policies and precluding independent negotiation by the U.K. of any new trade deals (except an agreement with the EU on a post-2021 relationship). U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach appears to reflect priorities of many in the business community, who place the highest value on maintaining open access for British trade with their largest customer market, the remaining 27 EU member states.
While in London earlier this autumn, NEMA President and CEO Kevin Cosgriff visited with counterparts in two British associations, BEAMA and GAMBICA, who lead a task force of industry groups advocating for continued regulatory alignment of the U.K. with the EU post-Brexit. BEAMA represents manufacturers of electrical infrastructure products and systems while GAMBICA covers instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technologies. Both organizations seek to maximize commercial growth benefits of “Brexit”, but also fear that a divergence by London from EU single market regulations on safety and environmental matters could open a loophole for non-compliant products to enter the U.K. NEMA has collaborated previously with BEAMA in anti-counterfeiting efforts and looks forward to even broader cooperation with BEAMA and GAMBICA in 2019.