Trade Minister says US deal will benefit North East business

The Minister of State for Trade and Investment was in the region to see expansion taking shape at BEL Valves

Lord Livingston visits the Bel Valves factory in St Peter's Basin, Newcastle. Pictured with Bel Valves CEO Neil Kirkbride (right)
Lord Livingston visits the Bel Valves factory in St Peter's Basin, Newcastle. Pictured with Bel Valves CEO Neil Kirkbride (right)

An agreement in principle is expected on a controversial US trade treaty, Trade Minister Lord Livingston said on a trip to Tyneside.

The Minister of State for Trade and Investment was visiting BEL Valves’ Newcastle operation yesterday to survey significant growth across its manufacturing and testing facilities.

Construction is currently underway at BEL’s St Peter’s site on a new facility to accommodate increasingly larger valves for use in international oil and gas contracts.

Lord Livingston commended BEL, particularly in its direct work with BP across the world, and said a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would benefit business in the North East.

He told The Journal: “Talks have been ongoing for a year and an agreement in principle is expected to happen next year.

“The TTIP will provide a lot of opportunity for companies in the North East and across the country. At the moment businesses face barriers to exporting to the US in terms of differing standards, regulations and tariffs.

Lord Livingston visits the Bel Valves factory in St Peter's Basin, Newcastle. Pictured with Bel Valves CEO Neil Kirkbride (right)
Lord Livingston visits the Bel Valves factory in St Peter's Basin, Newcastle. Pictured with Bel Valves CEO Neil Kirkbride (right)
 

“If we can help to bring these standards together and eliminate tariffs it will open the door for companies to move into a huge market.

“It’s not only good news for businesses, but consumers as well. If you’ve been on holiday to US and seen their low prices - that will extend consumers here under a partnership.”

The TTIP is a proposed agreement between the European Union and United States which aims to open the transatlantic market for services, investment, and public procurement.

On his visit to BEL Valves, the Minister was shown how the firm is expanding its presence in the international oil and gas market through projects in South America, Azerbaijan and the west coast of Africa, among other areas.

Following the relocation of Rotary Power - another British Engines firm - to Simonside Industrial Estate, BEL Valves are investing £15m in expanding their St Peter’s production and testing facilities.

Supported by £800,000 of Regional Growth Fund money, the firm is transforming the former Rotary Power premises to accommodate some of the biggest valves it has ever produced in its 50-year history.

BEL Valves managing director Neil Kirkbride outlined the firm’s move into the Brazilian market via significant contracts with Petrobras.

Lord Livingston visits the Bel Valves factory in St Peter's Basin, Newcastle
Lord Livingston visits the Bel Valves factory in St Peter's Basin, Newcastle
 

Mr Kirkbride said: “Recent figures from HMRC reveal the North East as the fastest growing region in England for export. This, alongside the fact the region has amongst the strongest

manufacturing output and order books in the UK, shows that we really know how to make things happen in the North East.

“Fundamentally we are specialist engineers and we aim to retain the most talented professionals right here in the North East. I am delighted that these figures show that we are achieving this together as a region – we certainly are at BEL Valves.

“It is this technical expertise and creativity that enables us to continue designing and manufacturing new products to meet the needs of our clients.

“We were delighted to welcome Lord Livingston and look forward to working with UKTI more in the future.”

In early November, the firm will open a Brazilian office to provide localised support for its customers and satisfy the Brazilian government’s desires to keep supply chain content within the country.

Lord Livingston also commented on how the UK Export Finance (UKEF) initiative is helping firms like BEL Valves to achieve bigger contracts overseas by providing a credit line for the international customers of their products.

He said: “North East firms are already benefiting from UKEF, directly and through the supply chain opportunities these deals create. In particular, the region has great strengths in the oil and gas and renewable energy supply chains.”

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