LINCOLN — Governor Pete Ricketts has joined groups of Husker fans who have turned Saturday’s football game in Ireland into an extended visit to the UK and Ireland.
But the governor skipped castles and pubs in favor of business meetings with British insurance executives, Britain’s trade minister and senior Irish government officials. Other members of his trade mission met their agricultural counterparts.
In a conference call from the UK on Wednesday, Ricketts expressed optimism about the relationship the group has established and the possibilities for stronger economic ties with the two countries.
“It was a good time for us to be here,” he said, noting that the UK was still finding its way after leaving the European Union, the rift dubbed Brexit.
Ricketts said Penny Mordaunt, Britain’s Minister of State for Trade, encouraged the Nebraska group to consider establishing a memorandum of understanding for trade with the UK, as some other states have done. Such a memorandum of understanding could fill the void until the US and UK hammer out a post-Brexit free trade deal.
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Data from the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Ag Service show that Nebraska’s exports to the UK and Ireland totaled around $1.065 billion between 2010 and 2020. Companies based in the UK United employ 4,494 Nebraskans in 21 communities across the state, while some Nebraska-based companies have branches in the United Kingdom.
Ricketts said Nebraska’s $68 million in trade with the UK in 2020 was mostly in machinery and machinery parts. But he said insurance and agriculture had great potential to strengthen economic ties between Cornhusker State and the UK.
Members of the Nebraska delegation met with the Association of British Insurers and toured historic Lloyd’s of London, as part of their efforts to promote the insurance environment in Nebraska.
Malcolm Smith, vice president of state government affairs for Nebraska-based Aflac, said the state is known for its consistent, fair and responsive regulatory environment, which could attract interest from the UK. He said the relationships developed during these face-to-face meetings will be beneficial down the road.
Mark McHargue, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, agreed. He and other traveling agriculture officials hope to sell more Nebraska beef and increase ethanol exports.
“Those kinds of relationships on those kinds of trips, you can’t really do that with Zoom,” he said.
Ricketts’ trip is paid for with money from the governor’s budget earmarked for trade missions.