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Letter from America

12 months ago The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) set up store in Gibraltar. James Lasry, the organisation’s president, and Nicole Kayner, co-ordinator, offer their thoughts on progress to date.

It has been just over a year since the American Chamber of Commerce Gibraltar (AmCham) was established and we are thrilled to share our level of progress so far. Accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AmCham Gibraltar is a business organization that was started last spring (2014) in order to develop business relationships between Gibraltar and U.S. companies and strengthen cultural ties. We have been hard at work doing just that.

It’s important to note just how extraordinary Gibraltar really is. We have a diverse, strong and vibrant economy, a highly skilled workforce and an ideal location at the intersection of Europe and Africa. But many U.S. companies don’t know about all we have to offer. Our goal at AmCham Gibraltar is to help spread the word and to equip Gibraltar companies with the connections and know-how they need to forge mutually beneficial business relationships with the United States.

Who we are…

AmCham Gibraltar is proud to already have over thirty local members. Representing a wide range of Gibraltar's industries from finance and maritime to law and insurance, our members are respected business leaders who represent the best of Gibraltar's potential. Our members are committed to promoting Gibraltar as an incredible place to do business and building lasting relationships with U.S. companies.

One Year On…

In order to help draw attention to all Gibraltar has to offer, we have already sponsored two Trade Missions. Our inaugural Trade Mission took place last May (2014) and was led by former U.S. Secretary of the Interior the Hon. Ken Salazar, who served during the first term of President Obama’s administration. Twenty-two companies attended, fifteen Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed and 170 business-to-business introductory meetings took place. It was a fantastic networking opportunity for our AmCham members and we were pleased to be joined by a number of Gibraltar dignitaries as well. The highlight was a Gala Dinner sponsored by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in St Michael’s Cave.

In November 2014, AmCham Gibraltar led a Trade Mission to the U.S. with stops in Washington D.C. and New York City. There we celebrated the official accreditation of the Gibraltar-American Chamber of Commerce by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We are now officially the 117th international AmCham.

Current Happenings…

We are currently preparing for our upcoming Trade Mission to Gibraltar this June 21-23 at the newly refurbished The Rock Hotel. This next Trade Mission will focus on financial services, the maritime industry and e-commerce. The Trade Mission is open to all AmCham Gibraltar members and will feature exciting special guest speakers from the U.S. as well as Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and other local dignitaries. There will be a welcome reception on the evening of Sunday, June 21st. On Monday, the Trade Mission will feature presentations about Gibraltar’s unique position as a gateway to Europe and Africa and an overview of our key industries, favorable tax climate and fantastic business environment. Time will then be allotted for key meetings between the visiting U.S. companies and Gibraltar firms. We are looking forward to the opportunity to showcase Gibraltar’s dynamic economy and create new business prospects.

In preparation for the Trade Mission, AmCham held a “Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch” training session the morning of Friday, May 22nd.  It was led by respected business growth expert, Kevin Allen  -- who counts Google, Burberry, Smythson, Swedbank and Verizon as clients – and focused on providing guidance and insight into making a strong, business-generating pitch to potential clients. The event was a huge success with over 40 people participating. Attendees were coached in how to tailor their approach to fit the client’s needs and how to project a confident, knowledgeable image. Feedback was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and AmCham Gibraltar plans to continue to offer these types of training opportunities in the future. We knew the event was a success because during the entire two hour presentation, not one person looked at his/her phone!

Going Forward…

After last year’s Trade Missions we heard over and over again from U.S. companies about what a remarkable place Gibraltar is and that they were so pleased to have the chance to discover the wealth of opportunities here. Our goal at AmCham Gibraltar is to continue to provide these networking chances so that more and more companies “across the pond” decide to do business in Gibraltar.

It can be easy to take for granted all that we have here. Our team at AmCham Gibraltar is focused on making sure we are touting our unique strengths as effectively as possible so as to continue to grow our economy. As a result of last year’s Trade Mission, at least two deals are in progress, each of which has a value of over £50 million.

 James Lasry is the president of AmCham, and Nicole Kayner a co-ordinator.

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Gibraltar and Europe: caught in the slipstream?

The British papers are full of who has the lead in the European in or out campaigns – Guy Clapperton considers the fallout for the smaller territories

Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no clear pattern emerging in the Europe debate, as long as we understand “Europe debate” to mean whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. This week alone we’ve seen Boris Johnson “warning Obama off” (as the BBC put it) getting involved in the debated, the same London Mayor and MP having a radio spat with Chuka Umunna involving telling each other to man up and various insults traded as either side accuses the other of scaremongering or making it up as they go along.

Divining who’s going to win is more difficult. The Daily Telegraph reports that “out” has it by a tiny margin but, crucially, the anti-Europe vote is likely to be more motivated so will actually show up on the day, expanding the margin by which it will win. Meanwhile the Times’ daily Red Box email points to Elections Etc. whose research suggests a 58% “remain” vote but with a plus or minus 14% error margin; so somewhere between 44% and 72% will go for staying in the EU. This, readers will note, tells us precisely nothing.

So the outcome, even if there weren’t 100 days in which Presidents and world leaders will offer counsel, claims and counterclaims will be made and the “leave” campaign will eventually decide who the official “leave” group actually is (there are two factions at the moment, doing the best impression of the Monty Python Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea that they can manage), we wouldn’t want to call a snap referendum even if it were to be called this afternoon.

What’s clear is that the outcome will ripple beyond the British mainland’s shores, and the ramifications of an “out” vote are already being felt on Gibraltar. Anyone doubting this should check today’s Times (subscription required), in which the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlights recent Spanish statements about what would happen in the event of a Brexit.

Spain actually caused a few eyebrows to raise and some other people to panic just a little with its recent statements. Essentially the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, suggested that there would be conversations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar the “day after” an announcement of a British exit, according to the Daily Mail and other reports. He also said (much, much further down the report) that he didn’t want Britain to leave: “God forbid” is the phrase he uses.

He raised the idea of joint sovereignty once again more recently, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle, this time suggesting that if Britain leaves Europe then Gib could do what it nearly did (he says) in 2002 and start transitioning towards Spain. This is an interesting definition of “nearly” when 98.48% of the electorate actually voted not to do so, but remaining British when this might exclude the Rock from Europe would inevitably raise different issues if not a different final outcome.

Outside Gibraltarian interests the effect could be more severe than that. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her wish to make a fresh case for Scottish independence. The once-in-a-generation referendum on this was lost in 2014 but should Britain exit Europe with a majority of Scots clearly demonstrating that they want to stay in, the case becomes stronger (although the collapse of the oil price would blow the original blueprint out of the water).

So we could end up with Scotland as well as Gibraltar wanting to remain in Europe while Britain made its exit. Whether this would be legally possible if both stayed tied to Britain is untested as yet – and with Spain eager to enter talks the day after an exit is agreed but the Gibraltarians implacably opposed to becoming Spanish, the way forward would not be clear.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.