Shower trays became the unlikely centre of a diplomatic debate as PM Boris Johnson extolled the virtues of post-Brexit trade deals with the US.
Following an earlier – and equally bizarre – debate about the availability of Melton Mowbray pork pies in the US, Johnson said the export of shower trays was a good example of how a new deal could remove trade barriers.
Speaking with journalists en route to the G7 summit in France, Johnson claimed that UK shower trays were unable to be sold in the US.
“You may not know this, but there are currently restrictions on the sale of British-made shower trays to the US,’ he said. “We’ve sold 250,000 shower trays around the world. There is some kind of bureaucratic obstacle that stops us from selling them in the US because they are allegedly too low.”
As with the pork pies, the detail turned out to be a little more nuanced.
John Schofield, sales and marketing director of JT, ended up on the World At One to clarify the prime minister’s comments. The ‘bureaucratic obstacle’ was nothing to do with a US-EU trade deal, but rather the ‘archaic’ plumbing regulations that exist in the US mass market.
The regulations, Schofield said, restricted the market to shower trays that are ten years behind the European trends of design and manufacturing.
“It is not about a trade agreement, but it is about their regulations, which are quite archaic in relation to the design of shower trays,” Schofield told kbbreview. “When we tried to challenge their industry regulators on why they haven’t changed in so many years we found that either they weren’t able or weren’t willing to adapt to allow an imported product into the country.
“Having spoken to various people in the marketplace, there is a desire for a more modern product. However, to try to get that change was going to be a long and challenging road, especially when there are established players there who it suits to keep the status quo.”
Schofield did welcome the discussion triggered by the prime minister’s remarks and hopes it leads to more opportunities for JT to revisit talks in that region.
Likewise, the Bathroom Manufacturers Association has welcomed calls by the Prime Minister to sell more UK bathroom products in the USA. Incoming BMA Chief Executive, Tom Reynolds said: “Both the UK and US are exciting markets for bathroom manufacturers and have leading products standards.
“As long as consumer protection is maintained in both countries, we welcome any efforts to increase bilateral trade. Talks must result in a level playing field for manufacturers on both sides of the pond. We have a longstanding partnership with Plumbing Manufacturers International to collaborate in supporting the industry on both sides of the Atlantic.
“In addition to a new trade partnership with the USA, our members are looking for certainty around the UK’s post-Brexit trading relationships. New trade barriers don’t help anyone. With such a lot of trade in bathroom products crossing the English Channel, we and our members are monitoring Brexit developments closely. The Government needs to resolve this as well as starting trade talks with the US.”