Robin Twyman

Robin Twyman

Consul for Business and Government Affairs

Part of Partners in Prosperity

27th March 2013 Seattle, USA

Roamin’ in the Evergreen State

When I was growing up in Canterbury, Kent, a house in our street had the name plate “Dunroamin” hung up on the outside wall. I was only about 8 years old, and hadn’t come across the term before. I thought it was a place in Ireland. But of course it means a state of mind where one is all travelled out and quite happy just to stay put.

After having dragged my family from one side of America to the other in January, you’d think we’d earned a rest and would be quite happy just to potter around Seattle, learning more about our new adopted home. Well, it’s tempting. We did enjoy celebrating the Chinese New Year in Seattle’s Chinatown. We’ve found out where to buy proper British tea.  And, more important to my ‘prosperity ‘mission in the UK Government Office out here, I’ve been getting out and about meeting the business community in Seattle.

Speaking at the AGM of the British American Business Council – Pacific Northwest

Like speaking at the AGM of the British American Business Council – Pacific Northwest this month.  Or meeting with the business associations that are working in the same sectors where Britain has strengths – life sciences, clean technology, and information technology. Or aerospace, on which the British Government launched a new long-term “lifting off” strategy last week, with a £2bn Aerospace Technology Institute at its heart. And introducing myself to the universities, colleges and research foundations based here. All the time, flagging up the UK’s very pro-business agenda, which the UK Chancellor’s budget statement underlined last week, with new announcements like cutting corporate tax to 20%, putting in place a new £2,000 employee tax allowance, and a £1.6bn industrial strategy.

But Washington State is more than Seattle. The policy making machine is in Olympia, the state capitol. Academic research is done both within and outside of Seattle, e.g., at the Washington State University in Pullman, a 5-hour drive east.  And a significant amount of the trade is done through Vancouver, the state’s third largest port (on the Columbia River, on the opposite bank from Portland, Oregon).

British Consul General Priya Guha, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, and Consul Robin Twyman

And that’s the point. Now that we’ve got a UK Government Office in Seattle, and firmly planted some official, British boots on the ground again, it doesn’t make any sense to keep those boots just in the Puget Sound (which, incidentally, was named in 1792 after British Lieutenant Peter Puget, a member of Captain George Vancouver’s expedition that “discovered” the area).  So I’ve got out and about. To Olympia in February, where San Francisco Consul General Priya Guha and I met Governor Jay Inslee and Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen.

To Vancouver this month, where we had a really interesting meeting hosted by Kelly Parker, the President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce  and fantastic tour of the Port by the management team, including Alastair Smith, a Scot and Senior Director of Operations.   (insert photo)   And in April I’ll be off to Spokane and the eastern part of the State.  It’s purely a coincidence that this is the wine-producing part of Washington (the second largest wine producer of the US, after California).

Visiting the Port of Vancouver, Washington State

The point is that I’m not dunroamin’. Because we didn’t set up a new office so that Britain is just open for business to Seattle. But it’s open to the whole state. There’s trade, investment and scientific collaboration that could be done with all Washington. And my goal is to raise the UK’s economic and political profile in as many key parts that I can so that we can unlock the potential. So that even more people know about my UKTI colleagues, and the advice and services they offer to companies considering expanding to the UK.

By odd coincidence, when we were in Vancouver it was one day after the result of the Falklands referendum in which its residents elected to remain an overseas territory of the UK. And there we discovered a local coffee shop named “Thatcher’s”, next to another shop advertising that “we’ve got your back covered”. How about that!

Follow Robin on Twitter: @RobinTwyman

About Robin Twyman

Robin Twyman took up his posting as Consul for Business and Government Affairs at the UK Government Office in Seattle in January 2013. He was previously First Secretary (Trade Policy,…

Robin Twyman took up his posting as Consul for Business and Government Affairs at the UK Government Office in Seattle in January 2013. He was previously First Secretary (Trade Policy, Business Affairs and Agriculture) at the British Embassy in Washington.

Born in Canterbury, Kent, in 1968, Robin joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1987. His diplomatic career has seen him serve overseas tours in Harare, Zimbabwe (1989-1992), and Geneva, Switzerland (2001-2006), plus short overseas tours in Mozambique, Mauritius, Russia, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Jordan, DR Congo, Albania, Zambia, Qatar, Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen.

Robin’s assignments have covered a wide range of duties. In Geneva, Robin was a UK delegate to the World Trade Organisation, where his portfolio included the Doha Trade Round’s agriculture negotiations, and trade disputes. Whilst there, he was elected to serve as a chair on one of the WTO’s sub-committees. In the FCO in London, Robin has been a Foreign Office Press Officer (1999-2001), Horn of Africa desk officer, a manager for the UK’s Afghanistan Counter Narcotics programme, and headed up the UK’s South Atlantic Overseas Territories team.