The top diplomat for the United Kingdom in the Southeast U.S. is headed to southern India June 6 after nearly five eventful years of service in Atlanta.
Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford ends his term here as dean of the local consular corps — the longest-serving diplomat in Georgia.
He will take up a new post as deputy high commissioner — roughly equivalent to a consul general — in the southern Indian city of Chennai, though he’ll oversee British consular affairs and trade outreach in a much broader territory spanning southern India.
Much like in his southern U.S. role, fostering economic links will be a top priority as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union.
Mr. Pilmore-Bedford spent much of the latter half of his tenure in Atlanta as an apologist for Brexit, which the government says will give the U.K. a freer hand in crafting its global trade strategy, even as it aims to retain smooth links with the EU. Once its extrication is complete, the country hopes to strike bilateral deals with major trading partners.
“A big priority for us once we leave the EU is to secure a free trade agreement with the United States. It’s the same for India. A lot of the work on preparing for that will be similar,” Mr. Pilmore-Bedford told Global Atlanta in an interview.
The British foreign office in March announced that it would add 250 diplomatic staff positions in 10 new missions around the world as part of a more than £100 million effort to foster a “Global Britain.”
“It’s part of the U.K.’s plans to be more globally active. We’re not going to turn inward or turn our back on free trade or on the world or on globalization, and this puts more resource behind that,” Mr. Pilmore-Bedford said.
Along with leading a contingent of the U.K. Department of International Trade, the postings have other parallels.
Reporting back to London on the region’s political happenings — a key consideration sitting among Republican strongholds of the southern U.S. — will also be part of the job in Chennai, an office staffed by some 130 people.
Chennai is also an automotive hub, an industrial city in an overlooked part of the country with abundant economic potential — a little bit like the southern U.S.
Mr. Pilmore-Bedford lobbied for the job in Chennai and believes he won it in part based on his team’s record here: nearly doubling the size of the consulate to 22 staffers including a science officer, a representative of the Wales government and a trade team with industry focus areas, as well as adding a “prosperity officer” to drum up business in North Carolina.
New challenges and opportunities await, however, in Chennai. That office includes major visa-processing operation which Mr. Pilmore-Bedford doesn’t have here; Chennai is also home to an office of the British Council, which teaches English and promotes British culture globally.
Mr. Pilmore-Beford is no stranger to Asia. Throughout a 25-year career, he has been posted in Qatar, Russia, Malaysia and Singapore.
It won’t be easy to replace Atlanta’s quality of life, he said. His family has settled in easily, with his wife working on a psychology master’s at Emory University and his son completing a fifth year of schooling here.
“There are many things about Atlanta that we’ll miss — the friendly people, the food, the travel, parks, wildlife, scenery,” Mr. Pilmore-Bedford. “I’ve got American family, so this country has always been close to my heart.”
The British community in Atlanta is also strong, having hosted its second annual Great British Weekend April 13-16 to showcase the ties between Georgia and the U.K.
Among the many activities was a cricket match between the British American Business Council of Georgia and the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. It was timely way for Mr. Pilmore-Bedford to brush up on the rules, considering where he’s headed.
The only problem? The Indians defeated the Brits for the second straight year during a match held at Brandon Hall School.
As part of @GBWeekend Atlanta’s Saturday activities, the cricket match between @babcga and the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce @BrandonHall_Atl made for an ideal afternoon.#SportIsGREATpic.twitter.com/mUVp3fVL7E
— British Consulate-General Atlanta (@UKinAtlanta) April 15, 2018
More info on the Great British Weekend here.
Learn more about the Deputy High Commission in Chennai here.
Read Global Atlanta’s introductory interview with Mr. Pilmore-Bedford: Trade Tops Agenda for New British Consul General