As the largest single market for the UK outside Europe, the US is of vital importance to Britain's economy. The latest government statistics state that total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and United States was £292.5 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023, an increase of 25.0%, or £58.6 billion in current prices, from the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022. 

Breaking down £292.5 billion 

  • Total UK exports to United States amounted to £177.2 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023 (an increase of 23.3%, or £33.5 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022); 
  • Total UK imports from United States amounted to £115.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023 (an increase of 27.8%, or £25.0 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022). 

The United States was the UK's largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023 accounting for 16.7% of total UK trade. 

Partnerships and collaborations 

We can see the growing need to nurture intercontinental ties as we are increasingly working with businesses with transatlantic operations, ranging from the very big and well established through to smaller companies who are new to the market. 

Many businesses across West Yorkshire have connections with the United States. Several of our larger corporations have American parent companies or affiliates. Others have been operating successfully on an international basis for some time with an established route to market or supply chain in the US, either trading through their own personnel or by engaging intermediaries. 

Despite the impressive track record our region boasts with respect to its positive balance of trade, there is much more that can be done to help our manufacturers to expand the local economy, including by building on the special relationship that exists with our single biggest export market, based just across the Atlantic. 

As a law firm with multiple offices in the US and with local offices in West Yorkshire, we are committed to helping the West Yorkshire economy to thrive and one of the key ways we can help support this is through helping our clients collaborate with businesses in the US. 

Accessing support 

At Womble Bond Dickinson we make it easier for UK firms to cross the Atlantic by providing access to support that can address some of the perceived risks and help remove the psychological barriers associated with doing business in the US. Local businesses have tested the waters in US markets and come back excited by the opportunity but feeling uncertain around how to break in. We can introduce them to contacts and colleagues on the ground over there who can connect businesses with customers and suppliers, as well as advisors. 

By helping and encouraging businesses to head across to the US on trade missions in collaboration with bodies we work closely with; such as the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), they can see the fantastic opportunities the US has to offer. 

Despite common misconceptions, the US is one of the easiest jurisdictions in the world in which to do business. Regulatory barriers are generally low, establishing a branch or business entity is quick and easy, employment laws are more employer-friendly than in the UK, and the legal system is well developed and transparent. However, there are challenges to doing business and certain barriers to entry that should be taken into account before investing or establishing operations in the US. 

For instance, the US is a litigious jurisdiction, and companies entering into commercial agreements in the US should be aware that it is not unusual for disputes arising from commercial contracts to be litigated. Disputes will almost always be decided based upon case law rather than a statutory framework as the US is a common law jurisdiction. 

Subject to a few exceptions, US commercial contracts will be interpreted and enforced solely in accordance with their terms. This means that if a contractual dispute arises and is litigated in a US court, the court generally will not look beyond the “four corners” of the contract to determine its meaning. It is therefore important that particular care be taken in the drafting, negotiation, and management of any US commercial contracts, as litigation can be time consuming and expensive. 

Womble Bond Dickinson 

Womble Bond Dickinson's long term objective is to create a network of local businesses who can share their experiences and help each other to grow the volumes of international trade between our region and the US. Womble Bond Dickinson plans to hold a series of events focusing on particular sectors, themes and/or geographies within the US. 

Womble Bond Dickinson is a transatlantic law firm with 31 locations across the US and UK, including offices in Leeds, West Yorkshire. 

If you are planning to export goods and services from the UK then it is likely you’ll need legal advice to protect you against various risks. Please get in touch if you need any support.


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