TALLAHASSEE (AP) - The United Kingdom's ambassador to the United States urged support for free trade and stressed its importance to Florida, including jobs created by British companies, while visiting Wednesday with state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott.
Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald said the United Kingdom is the state's largest foreign employer and that 44,000 Floridians owe their jobs to British investment in Florida.
"We're both trade-dependent economies, the U.K. an island and Florida surrounded on three sides by water," Sheinwald said in an appearance before the Florida Senate.
He noted that Manchester University's business school was opening a branch in Miami on Wednesday, a British trade mission to Florida's Space Coast is planned for next week and the United Kingdom's government last year agreed to collaborate with Space Florida, the state's space agency, to promote commercial launches.
"We want to build on that relationship," Sheinwald said. "That's the purpose of my visit."
Scott expressed support for free trade and said they share the same goal of creating jobs, he in Florida and Sheinwald in the United Kingdom.
British investments in the state include Legoland Florida, a theme park expected to soon open in Winter Haven employing about 1,000 people, Sheinwald said.
"I just need 700 Legolands," Scott quipped.
The Republican governor, a former health care executive without prior political experience, campaigned last year on a promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. That would be in addition to about 1 million new jobs expected as the state grows and its economy recovers from recession over that span.
Scott said he'd meet with the British trade delegation on the Space Coast next week and accepted Sheinwald's invitation to visit the United Kingdom with business and civic leaders from Florida.
"We hope to continue to build our relationship," Scott said.
In his Senate speech, Sheinwald also made a pitch for U.S. approval of a deal to liberalize international trade rules through what's known as the Doha round of trade talks. They've gone on for 10 years as rich and poor countries have squabbled over lowering tariffs and opening access to one another's markets.
"We can't keep going around in circles on this for another 10 years," Sheinwald said, adding that this may be the "make or break year."
He said a study by his embassy shows agreement would generate $38 billion a year and 400,000 new jobs for the U.S. economy, including $2.9 billion and 27,000 jobs in Florida.
Differences between China and the United States are seen as the main obstacle. Washington's position is that major developing countries such as China already have benefited significantly from past free trade deals and would gain an even greater advantage from Doha.