East of England set for £345 million boost from UK-US free trade agreement

The UK has published its negotiating objectives for a free trade agreement with the United States, with talks expected to begin in March 2020.

A number of East of England businesses have already come out in support of an FTA, saying it would help them to trade more easily.

The agreement will deliver on the government’s pledge to deliver for the whole United Kingdom.

The negotiating objectives published today set out that any future agreement must protect the NHS and uphold the UK’s high standards on food safety and animal welfare.

The agreement will also include a chapter on digital trade, to maximise opportunities for businesses to trade digitally across the Atlantic.

Government analysis also published today shows that the East of England’s economy is expected to grow by up to £345 million as a result of a future UK-US free trade agreement.

The US is the East of England’s largest export market, accounting for 14% of all East of England’s goods exports. 3,774 businesses in the East of England collectively export £7,316 worth of goods to the US every minute (HMRC Regional Trade Statistics Q3 2019).

International Trade Minister Graham Stuart visited businesses in Cambridge this week, including Cambridge Satchel Company, to talk about the potential benefits a UK-US trade deal could bring to the business. The US is the business’s largest export market.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: 

“We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we’re going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry.

“Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.

“Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations.”

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said:

“Striking ambitious free trade agreements with our partners around the world is one of the key opportunities of Britain becoming an independent trading nation once again.

“This deal with our biggest single trading partner will cut red tape for our small businesses, cut tariffs for our great products from dairy to cars and increase growth in all four nations.”

Business set to benefit

A number of businesses from across the East of England are set to benefit from increased trade with the United States.

The Cambridge Satchel Company was founded in 2008 by Julie Deane and her mother Freda Thomas. They now employ 160 people and export more to the US than any other country. In 2019 the company exported £715,000 of goods to the US.

Julie Deane, Founder and CEO, Cambridge Satchel Company, said:

“I am very pleased to learn that the UK-US FTA is being worked upon, this agreement is of critical importance.

“The US was one of the first markets to really embrace and support The Cambridge Satchel Company, with customers expressing their love of British style and manufacturing.

“Many American celebrities including Taylor Swift, Emma Stone and Lady Gaga have been spotted with our bags which has added to the demand from this market.”


Colchester-based popcorn brand Retrocorn started selling its retro-style popcorn to the US two years ago.

After securing a contract to work with a chain of 250 retail stores across the US, the company has seen continuous demand from US consumers, and the market now accounts for approximately 15% of its total business.

The company has plans to expand its presence in the US through an in-market distributor, and it hopes to grow its 7-strong team by 3 as part of its US strategy. A UK-US FTA could make it easier for companies like Retrocorn to grow their presence across the US.

Greg Taylor, Managing Director, Retrocorn said:

“Our business plan for 2020 is to reach more customers in the US with our products.  An FTA could reduce the costs of import and could lead to the products being offered cheaper in the market, making it better value for money to the end consumer and more in line with other products. This would hopefully lead to an increase in sales and export volume for us.”

The East of England region exported £53 million worth of food and drink in the year to September 2019, amounting to over 31,000 tonnes.

Motilal Books

Specialised worldwide wholesaler of Indian published books Motilal Books from St Albans currently exports $500,000 worth of its books to the US, and to the US in the past two years. As the biggest English book market in the world, the company sees huge potential for more growth, especially for their niche titles, into the US.

A UK-US FTA could make it even easier for businesses like Motilal Books to sell to traders and consumers the US.

Ray McLennan, Managing Director, Motilal Books, said:

“The UK is the natural launching pad to sell into the US, and for all English-speaking countries. As the world’s centre for the creative industries, the UK is very well accepted by the American markets.”

James White Drinks Ltd

Ipswich-based juice producer James White Drinks Ltd started selling its Beet It organic beetroot juice and concentrated beetroot sport shots in the US 5 years ago.

By tapping into one of the largest consumer markets in the world, James White Drinks now sells $750,000 of its Beet It products a year in the US, and demand is growing by around 25% every year.

Lawrence Mallinson, Managing Director, James White Drinks, said:

“Having taken so long to work out a successful modus operandi in this very large but very challenging market, it is critical that a UK-US FTA is obtained quickly to enable us to capitalise on where we are now.

“More co-operation on organic specifications, food security and labelling regulations should make it cheaper and easier to access the US market.”

Exemplas Trade Services Ltd (ETSL) has delivered the contract for the Department for International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment) in the East of England for almost a decade.

For more information on how we can support your business in exporting overseas, get in touch.