US Ambassador's Grimsby seafood tour sets tone for 'robust trade deal'

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 22 Mar 2019

US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, made Grimsby a vital port of call as he garners information ahead of a potential free trade deal between the Whitehouse and Westminster.

A fortnight after the town hosted Prime Minister Theresa May, the coincidental high profile follow-up came as preparations for enhanced relationships are made - with seafood an important element.

He met a fellow American heading up Grimsby’s largest employer, Bill Showalter of Young’s, and heard how determined plans to quadruple transatlantic trade are in hand.

Mr Johnson, who arrived at Ross House having taken in Grimsby Fish Market, Alfred Enderby’s smokehouse, Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre Grimsby Seafood Village and later Seachill, said: “I am interested in fish and fishing, because to do a free trade deal with US, it will involve agriculture and fish, which is important. 

Mr Johnson samples the seafood, with Serge Nollent serving, centre, watched by Martyn Boyers, Bill Showalter and Martin Vickers MP.

“After the UK leaves the EU there is going to be a tremendous opportunity, particularly in the US market. I’ve been told about Young’s today, and what they are doing with Walmart, and the growth rate is spectacular. That’s great for Grimsby and great for the country. It shows free trade rule has been strong, and it is going to get a lot stronger. 

“The President has talked about it a lot and I have talked about it ever since I arrived, we want a relationship that is robust, strong, fair, free and balanced, like our relationship now is robust. $250 billion a year goes between the US and the UK, we have about one million Americans working for British companies, and reciprocally over here, one million work for American companies.  We have the biggest and most important relationship trade-wise and definitely the most important from an ally standpoint, strategically, military and political.”

Turning to Grimsby, he said he didn’t know much prior to his London meeting with North East Lincolnshire’s two MPs, but said: “Looking on a map, it is the ideal port in the country when you look at the potential.” 

Mr Johnson is walked through the products by Serge Nollent in the Inspiration Centre at Ross House.  

The New York Jets owner is part of the Johnson and Johnson health-focused consumer products dynasty, and jokingly cajoled his host, Mr Showalter, to up his aim to quadruple US sales, already amounting to several millions after a standing start just over a year ago.

He was talked through the business, and its US relations, with imports of Alaskan pollock featuring highly long before sending finished product to the US materialised.

Impressed by the US-sold Wild Caught Haddock Fillets served up by Young’s development chef Serge Nollent in the Inspiration Centre within Ross House, Mr Johnson said: “Wow, incredible, and beautiful looking,” before turning to an aide and asking “are we going to serve this up at Winfield House?’ his official London residence. 

After a brief morning market, where he was impressed with the black book recording of sales dating back centuries, he had boarded fishing vessel Ingenuity, a crabber, meeting current crew and then retired deep-water fishermen. 

Trade talk: Mr Showalter and Mr Johnson talk business, with Martin Vickers MP and Martyn Boyers. 

Reflecting on the morning, Mr Johnson said he had met many fascinating people, describing Enderby owner Patrick Salmon as “one of the best salesmen I have ever met” - quite a compliment when you consider his business background with the ‘family’ firm comfortably in the top 50 of the Fortune 500.

“He was very proud of his very attractive fish,” Mr Johnson said. “He does it right, using the old processing method, and doesn’t add anything. He just smokes it like it has been smoked for the last couple of hundred years.”

He also praised the fluidity of the market operations led by Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises chief executive Martyn Boyers, with weather delays hampering supplies of late.

Mr Johnson later visited Hull, taking in the city centre and benefits City of Culture brought.

MORE: Seafood chief talks Brexit and American opportunity with US Ambassador Woody Johnson

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