Thomas White, president of the British American Business Group-Atlanta, had the final word Sept. 13 at a downtown luncheon for the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the U.S.
“I’m motivated, I think we all are,” Mr. White said referring to the ambassador’s challenge that the traditional “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K. be remodeled to meet the times while continuing to strengthen transatlantic ties.
Sir Nigel Sheinwald participated in a question and answer session during the event at the Commerce Club where Dennis Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, played the part of British celebrity David Frost, who is known for his interviews of famous people.
Mr. Lockhart covered an extensive range of topics from financial and economic policies of Britain’s new two-party coalition, the first since the 1930s, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sir Nigel pointed out to the packed dining room that BP p.l.c. has as many U.S. as British shareholders and also an equal number of employees.
That point seemed an anchor for most of his remarks both at the luncheon and following during an interview with GlobalAtlanta.
The times call for a remodeling of the special relationship, he said, while indicating that the U.S. and the U.K. share a common destiny.
“We don’t want to rest on our laurels and not on our history and sentimentality,” he said during the luncheon. “This is not the era of Churchill and Roosevelt. We want a new relationship and new institutional strengths.”
That said, Sir Nigel made it clear that the “Buy American” provisions being contemplated by the U.S. Congress went very much against the grain of the future prosperity of the global economy.
Itemizing the relationship between Georgia and the U.K., he pointed to the 24,000 jobs that U.K. companies have created in Georgia and the U.K.’s position as the highest export destination for Georgia companies in all of Europe. $1.2 billion worth of exports reached the U.K. from Georgia in 2009, he added.
During the video interview, Sir Nigel said that he understood the reasons behind the “Buy American” campaign.
“The pressures are there,” he said. “High unemployment, people are hurting because of the recession here as they do all over the world and the temptation is to go for the short cut measures.”
But such measures don’t protect anyone in the long term,” he added, saying “It’s better to have faith in the multilateral system and faith in openness.”
As for Mr. White’s motivation, he said that the Britsh American Business Group and its 400 members should push for free trade and function as a lobbying group.
He added that the group should work with local politicians whom he sensed would be free traders as representatives from the South.
“That’s my sense of this city and this state,” he said. “You understand the importance of being international and the importance of keeping business barriers down and to work on the basis of honest competition.”
During his visit to Atlanta, Sir Nigel also went to the Carter Center and conducted a ribbon cutting at the remodeled offices of the British Consulate General. The luncheon was hosted by Annabelle Malins, Britain’s consul general in Atlanta, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business and the British American Business Group.