Rufus Drabble on the UK Presence

A conversation with the UK

By GlobalMiami Magazine

The United Kingdom’s Consul General in Miami, Rufus Drabble, started his role in Miami just over a year ago. Since then, he has collaborated on multiple trade missions, promoted investment in UK-targeted sectors, and worked on a Memorandum of Understanding with Florida. The Consul General’s previous role was in The Netherlands as regional director for consular and crisis work across Europe and Central Asia. He has also served in Tunisia, Singapore, Afghanistan, Norway, and Kenya. We sat with Consul General Drabble to discuss the strong Miami/UK economic relationship.

How does Miami compare to other cities where you’ve been posted?

It is different, that’s for sure. Probably the closest posting I’ve done to Miami was Singapore. It was very similar in terms of the very compressed high rises. There was not a lot of space in Singapore. It was also quite hot and humid, so I’m rather delighted when I am in an air-conditioned office or an air-conditioned car, which seems to be the way people survive at this time of year here. There are similarities to Singapore in terms of the hustle and bustle that Miami has, but [it’s] very different from some of the other postings I’ve done in Kenya and Afghanistan.

How does the UK contribute to South Florida’s economy?

Trade is a big part of what we do. The political outreach and engagement are really important, and I’m delighted to say we’re number two in terms of international tourists to Florida, including Miami. Sadly, the Canadians consistently beat us — not that we have a competition. But the Brits bring a lot of money. We tend to spend more… Before COVID we had almost 1.2 million British tourists coming over [annually] to spend money here, which is fantastic… In 2021, British tourists spent $323 million in Miami-Dade County. British FDI [foreign direct investment] is still number one in Florida.

What sectors have grown in trade between the UK and Miami, and what are some opportunities?

Aviation and aerospace are our main sectors and [aircraft parts are] one of the top Florida exports to the UK…. We’ve got some interesting companies that are now based in Florida, up in Melbourne and Cape Canaveral, but also in the UK. We’re working on … niche expertise, be it on the solar arrays that often go up into space or microsatellites. We’ve got some other sectors in slightly more niche areas like micro-processing AI. We’re also looking at the next phase of space exploration, which will be manufacturing in space.

What are some sectors of cross-collaboration between the UK and Miami?

Engagement with the American enforcement agencies, be it the police, CIA, etc. A huge amount of the drugs that come from Latin America and the Caribbean come into America and Canada and from there move to Europe. In fact, the route from Miami to Rotterdam is known as a significant worry in terms of illegal people, drugs, weapons, etc., making it into Europe and from Europe to the UK…. And then the other one worth mentioning is what we call resilience – making everything more floodproof… There are quite a large number of UK companies that are well involved in flood protection, storm surge protection, and making buildings hurricane-proof.

The UK recently established MoUs with five states. Is Florida next?

We don’t have a free trade agreement with America. But what we are doing in the UK – and this is particularly as a result of Brexit – is trying to expand some of the markets other than Europe. We have been looking to build what we call trade memorandums of understanding, which is a sort of long-winded way of saying a bilateral trade agreement. But we’re doing it at a state level rather than a federal one. We’ve already done five in Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, but we’re currently doing one with Florida.

What are some current challenges for investment and trade between both regions?

At the moment, it’s getting folks in the UK to look up from what’s been a really tough financial period and start to be brave and look to expand elsewhere. Lots of companies have made a success of it, but they tend to be some of the larger companies that have a bit more resources… The economic situation was not helped by oil and gas prices, by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and by competition across Europe. But I’m confident that we’re already starting to see an improvement in business confidence in the UK.

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