image of UK's port of hull entry
Members of the Chafee Center are spending the week on a mission to the U.K., which includes a visit to the Port of Hull.
Chafee Center team heads to the U.K. for trade mission
Jun 10, 2024, by Karen Greco
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On the heels of a sold-out, successful World Trade Day, the team at the John F. Chafee Center for International Business are applying their robust learnings across the pond in the U.K. at their next trade mission. 

“We don’t just talk about fostering international relationships; we do it,” says Eva-Marie Mancuso, director of Chafee Center. This month, Mancuso is leading a trade mission to the United Kingdom. On the docket are the two major drivers of Rhode Island’s Blue Economy: Offshore wind and marine technology.

 “We have so many small businesses who are looking to grow their market outside of the United States, and building these solid relationships with our global trade partners is essential to their success,” says Betty Robson, CEO of JF Moran and chair of this year’s World Trade Committee, who calls the goodwill built during the event “crucial” to these overseas relationships. 

 “The trade missions build upon that framework by creating potential pathways for international growth,” she adds.

With 400 miles of rugged coastland, a deep maritime history and strong buy-in from political leaders, Rhode Island is poised to lead in the blue economy. The state was an industry leader in wind energy as the first in the United States to host an offshore wind farm. But to remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace requires a level of economic diplomacy that the Chafee Center, in partnership with the state and national government can help business navigate.  

John O’Keeffe, vice president of Watson Terminal Services, which runs the state’s deep-water ports, says the bridge between World Trade Day and the Chafee’s trade missions are important for job growth across the state. “Bringing new business in the existing port and developing East ProvPort equals new customers,” he explains, “which means more local jobs and investment into the Rhode Island economy.”

The Chafee’s mission to the U.K. includes meeting with British consulate members and business leaders in offshore wind. Offshore wind energy powers more than 7.5 million homes across the U.K., making it a global leader in wind energy. Because of this deep industry knowledge, Chafee Center director Mancuso sees part of the trip as a way for Rhode Island businesses to learn about best practices and overcoming obstacles from industry leaders. Their success can serve as a roadmap to power the blue economy back home.

According to Mancuso, World Trade Day is the conversation starter; the missions are where they can dive deeper with potential trade partners. After a day of networking events in London, the Chafee Center delegation will spend the remainder of the week on site visits to the coastal ports of Grimsby, Hull, Newcastle, and Blyth.

“Certain areas of the U.K. have a high pedigree of expertise, and there is a significant market share for European offshore wind,” says Dustin Varnell, director of Spirit Advisory, which advises on offshore energy transition and will be part of the Rhode Island delegation in the UK. “The offshore wind space is new here in the U.S. Once the industry gets off the ground, many companies will look to expand internationally.  We see this mission as planting the seeds for that expansion.”

Exporting is important to Rhode Island’s economy, but foreign direct investment is just as crucial for job creation. “These trade missions place Rhode Island at the forefront of economic development conversations within the host countries,” says Robson. “This opens opportunities for mutually beneficial trade.” The Chafee Center can provide a soft landing for international businesses looking for a U.S. home, which can make Rhode Island an appealing state to put down roots.  

But ultimately, it’s the collaboration that’s key between business leaders of different countries. “It isn’t a zero-sum game when working across markets,” says Sprit Advisory’s Varnell. “Often, you can find growth and connections by sharing risks and working together to develop capabilities.”

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