Opportunities and challenges of increased US-UK manufacturing trade

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Register for our webinar on ‘How to make a resilient supply chain’ here

Walker Morris’s new report, Made for Trade, surveys 200 senior managers at US and UK manufacturing businesses based in the industrial heartlands of the US Midwest and the UK Northern Powerhouse*.

Opportunities of increased trade

The overwhelming majority (93%) of manufacturers surveyed say they see opportunity in increased bilateral trade between the US and UK. When asked what form this opportunity takes, respondents identified access to markets, knowledge, and technology as the dominating factors.

Two-thirds (65%) say bilateral trade would unlock access to more advanced production facilities, 59% say access to R&D or innovation centres would be a key advantage, and 57% across the UK and the US say access to neighbouring markets is a draw.

Challenges of international trade

Both US and UK manufacturers face similar challenges. Manufacturing’s exposure to commodity markets and ‘just-in-time’ procurement means businesses are quickly affected by economic shock or supply chain interruption, such as the blocking of the Suez Canal in March 2021, both of which are happening with increasing frequency.

There is a rise in both international trade disputes, and pressure to become more environmentally sustainable. A further challenge facing manufacturers is finding the right M&A opportunities: while 34% aim to grow via M&A, more than a third (38%) say finding the right opportunities to do so is difficult.

In addition, new regulation is a challenge for over two-thirds (68%) of respondents and heightened competition is also high on the list of hurdles. Finally, global manufacturing continues to digitise, driven by more capable, affordable and interconnected technologies: as a result, the competition manufacturers experience is likely to intensify.

The challenges faced by manufacturers in the UK and US are similar, potentially making the case for increase trade stronger. Manufacturers could not only access opportunities for growth, but new approaches to problem solving and creative solutions.

Common US-UK heritage

A shared language, similar culture and comparable legal systems mean the US-UK special relationship is fertile ground for propagating business growth across the Atlantic. Those making the move will find changes to their business model can be tackled in a landscape more familiar than most other locations around the world.

But whatever problems emerge, one important part of dealing with them is gaining a strong understanding of the legal documents and contracts underpinning key business activities.

As Nick Lees, Partner, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Walker Morris, says:

“Reviewing key legal documents gives clear visibility of vital key activities and relationships – should something unexpected happen, this will help identify commercial options, as well as highlight legal weaknesses early.”

Nick explains more about ‘How to make a resilient supply chain’ in our forthcoming webinar. Learn more here.

For more on the opportunities, challenges and solutions available to US and UK manufacturers, download the full Made for Trade report here.


*US Midwest is defined as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

UK Northern Powerhouse is defined as the city regions of Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield