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Brexit vote shouldn’t dampen Baltimore’s drive to build imports, official says

Shipping containers at the port of Baltimore (File)

Shipping containers at the port of Baltimore. (File)

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union might create some challenges for Baltimore businesses looking to export to the United Kingdom, but an international business expert working with city officials say it will take time to assess the full impact of the historic action.

While the United Kingdom is among Baltimore’s top five international trading partners, city regions in Europe and around the world will have to have a thoughtful approach to the global economy and be proactive, said Marek Gootman of the Brookings Institution.

“It’s obviously very hard to gauge specifically because a lot of the impact of the Brexit won’t be felt for some time,” said Gootman, who is the director of strategic partnerships and global engagements for Brookings.

Baltimore is part of a program called the Global Cities Initiative, a partnership between Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, which released a report last year showing Charm City can do more to increase exports. The Baltimore metro area ranks 28th out of the 100 largest metro regions in the country in terms of export value, the report said.

Around 6.9 percent of Baltimore’s economy comes from exports, and the region ranks 90th out of 100 metro areas in the United States in terms of exports as a share of GDP.

Baltimore has a significant amount of foreign direct investment and jobs associated with foreign enterprises from England, said Gootman. Those include grocery stores, insurance, employment services and some manufacturers. London, which is also in the Global Cities Initiative program, is in the top three.

The Baltimore region and the U.S. as a whole could benefit from more foreign direct investments if investors in the United Kingdom determine it’s safer and appealing to invest more in the U.S. than in Europe.

But as the value of the British pound decreases — an initial consequence of the vote — it will be more expensive to sell American goods abroad.

“There’s a lot of information out there on impact of exchange rates, macro issues that will impact aspects of international trade,” said Gootman.

Despite the Brexit votes, the broader trend toward globalization is not going to change, he said. Instead, cities, including London and Baltimore, will have to engage internationally on their own. Some UK cities are already taking that initiative, including Liverpool and Sheffield, said Gootman.

“We have to be prepared for challenges around economic development,” he said.

Last week, the greater Baltimore region was chosen to be part of a group of metropolitan areas in the U.S. that will try to attract more foreign direct investment through the Global Cities Initiative. The effort will build on an export plan created through GCI and the Greater Baltimore Committee. Baltimore will join Fresno, Houston, Salt Lake County, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay to make a foreign direct investment plan.