Why US elections matter in the UK and Liverpool.
Voting is underway in USA to pick the 46th President. This election is one of the most divisive in recent times, and the outcome is of great significance in the UK and port cities like Liverpool. The Atlantic and the Americas have always been as important to the cultural, social and commercial make up of Liverpool as relationships with London, the rest of the UK and Europe are. Liverpudlians have always seen themselves as sons and daughters of the city long before they view themselves as national subjects and the ties with the US supports that independent streak. The 2 famous Liverbirds who sit atop their perch on the riverside reflect this duality - one looks out over the river to the sea afar, the other looks inland over the city, the Pennines and beyond. So what happens out there over the blue yonder counts to Merseysiders.
A Trump second term is likely to see a continuation of the isolationist posture and policy we have seen to date. Higher walls, tariffs and duties are being promised, or threatened at least. Not good news for a city building an international deep water port and looking for Atlantic sea-traffic to fill it.
While it is unknown exactly what stance a Biden Presidency would take on certain trade issues, the former VP’s record and the traditional Democrat position is more favorable to global, regional and international deal making with the EU, NAFTA, IMF, NATO and UN, and by extension favorable to cargo and transport.
In the UK, as Brexit and the UK’s global trade deals draw to their conclusion, it is of great interest and importance which direction the US takes. The UK has been and remains in a ’special relationship’ with the US, based on historic partnerships, military support and a shared social and cultural outlook. Trump’s first term also saw him veer away from long established global institutions and wander towards former foe Russia, a new love/hate on/off romance with Communist China, the oil states of the Mid-East and even buddy visits to rogue state. North Korea. His unwillingness to play America’s traditional role of ‘big brother’ to the World’s democracies has appealed to US voters weary of paying the price for peace, but pulling back has left US firms more exposed to challenging trading terms and restricted access to global markets. So why does this matter for UK And Liverpool? As we stumble towards a no deal Brexit, isolationalist voices in Govt have long promised uncoupling from our near neighbors on the continent is nothing to worry about as we could formulate a new deal with our trans-Atlantic cousins. But as US global trade contracts, it seems a poor choice of partner to hitch our wagon to as we sever ties with the World’s largest trading bloc. If Biden is successful once the ballots close tonight, is leading as the counting concludes this week and overcomes the inevitable legal challenges, we may see a fresh approach to US foreign policy and trade: one which brings relief to both Brexiteers and Remainers, and new hope for port cities on the Atlantic coast. For Brexiteers, the re-emergence of a globally-open US breathes new life into the dream of a special US/UK post Brexit arrangement - one where goods enter the UK first before somehow miraculously getting to Europe without killer charges - Rotterdam seems a more likely winner of that battle sadly. And for Remainers, the sight of the world‘s only real superpower re-engaging with the big global institutions could keep the door open for new negotiated deals and settlements which might see UK businesses and cities like Liverpool benefit.
Like the Liverbirds, politically astute scouse business will be looking west tonight to the open Atlantic and hoping to see signs of ships on the horizon.