Which British and American cities will be most affected by May and Trump’s economic policies?

Yeah, but what ya gonna do? Theresa May and Donald Trump. Image: Getty.

On 30 January the Centre for Cities published Cities Outlook 2017, our annual health-check on UK city economies. This year, the report highlighted the importance of Europe as an export destination for every UK city – and which cities would be most affected by a ‘bad’ trade deal with the EU. 

On the same day the Brookings Institution’s Metro programme released analysis showing which US cities could be most affected by the Trump administration’s proposed “America First” approach to international trade. As the authors rightly note: 

For all its national and global implications, an “America first” economic policy is also a matter of significant import for the nation’s local patchwork of cities, small towns, and rural areas. [In the US] Trade is generally regarded as a national issue, but it is underpinned by local collections of firms that often concentrate together to form industrial clusters.

“This means that changes in federal trade policy can have large implications for individual communities, whose reliance on trade can vary widely by dint of the tradability of their local industry mix and overall global orientation.”

What is true for the US and Trump’s “America First” policy is equally true for the UK and May’s “Global Britain” policy (the government’s drive to increase exports to different counties beyond the EU). This will similarly have a major impact on cities across the UK.

In view of these relationships, it is worth examining the geography of export reliance among US and UK cities – and which places in both countries will be most affected by changes in national policy. The following two maps, using slightly different metrics, show those US cities and UK cities which are the biggest exporters in terms of volume, and those cities which are most reliant on exports as a driver of economic growth and jobs.

Image: Brookings Institute.

What does the US data show?  In terms of overall volume of exports, America’s big cities lead the way. New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Dallas and Seattle are all trading giants, each exporting more than $50bn annually in goods and services, and together accounting for 25 per cent of national exports.

But America’s large cities are not the places most reliant on exports as a driver of economic growth and jobs. Instead, export intensity – measured as the export share of GDP – is highest in smaller energy and manufacturing-oriented cities such as Detroit, Portland, and New Orleans. At the extreme end, over half of the economy in Columbus in Indiana is driven by exports, largely due to its machinery manufacturing cluster.

The patterns are similar in the UK. In absolute terms London is the largest contributor, responsible for 28 per cent of the country’s exports, followed by the other big cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol. 

But in terms of export intensity – measured as the value of exports per job – it’s car manufacturing cities such as Sunderland and Coventry, pharmaceutical exporting cities such as Worthing and Slough, and energy and engine manufacturing cities such as Derby and Aldershot, that are most reliant on exports as a driver of economic growth and jobs.

Image: Centre for Cities.

As both maps show, cities across the UK and US, to a greater or lesser degree, are connected to the global economy through international trade (and talent) flows and networks. In the years ahead, Theresa May’s attempts to create a post-Brexit “Global Britain” and Donald Trump’s “America First” policies will have real implications for places and people across both countries.

If, for example, Trump’s protectionist tendencies result in trade barriers with other countries, that will clearly create big problems for US cities – especially those most reliant on exports such as Detroit or Portland.

But it will also cause problems for UK cities. Given the UK government’s drive to increase exports to non-EU market, and the US in particular, Trump’s protectionism could also have a significant bearing on the economic prospects of UK cities such as Hull and Derby. And if Theresa May’s vision for a “Global Britain” comes at the expense of an EU trade deal, the fall-out for all UK cities will be significant.

The findings of both reports should serve as a reminder for national policy-makers of the need to consider the geographical implications of national initiatives and how they will play out in different parts of their country. It also underlines the importance of having a city-based approach at the heart of domestic economic policies, such as the upcoming Industrial Strategy in the UK, to ensure it recognises the needs and challenges that different cities across the UK face.

Andrew Carter is deputy chief executive of the Centre for Cities. This is an edited version of an article first posted on the think tank's blog

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Everything you ever wanted to know about the Seoul Metro System but were too afraid to ask

Gwanghwamoon subway station on line 5 in Seoul, 2010. Image: Getty.

Seoul’s metro system carries 7m passengers a day across 1,000 miles of track. The system is as much a regional commuter railway as an urban subway system. Without technically leaving the network, one can travel from Asan over 50 miles to the south of central Seoul, all the way up to the North Korean border 20 miles north of the city.

Fares are incredibly low for a developed country. A basic fare of 1,250 won (about £1) will allow you to travel 10km; it’s only an extra 100 won (about 7p) to travel every additional 5km on most lines.

The trains are reasonably quick: maximum speeds of 62mph and average operating speeds of around 20mph make them comparable to London Underground. But the trains are much more spacious, air conditioned and have wi-fi access. Every station also has protective fences, between platform and track, to prevent suicides and accidents.

The network

The  service has a complex system of ownership and operation. The Seoul Metro Company (owned by Seoul City council) operates lines 5-8 on its own, but lines 1-4 are operated jointly with Korail, the state-owned national rail company. Meanwhile, Line 9 is operated jointly between Trans-Dev (a French company which operates many buses in northern England) and RATP (The Parisian version of TfL).

Then there’s Neotrans, owned by the Korean conglomerate Doosan, which owns and operates the driverless Sinbundang line. The Incheon city government, which borders Seoul to the west, owns and operates Incheon Line 1 and Line 2.

The Airport Express was originally built and owned by a corporation jointly owned by 11 large Korean firms, but is now mostly owned by Korail. The Uijeongbu light railway is currently being taken over by the Uijeongbu city council (that one’s north of Seoul) after the operating company went bankrupt. And the Everline people mover is operated by a joint venture owned by Bombardier and a variety of Korean companies.

Seoul’s subway map. Click to expand. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The rest of the lines are operated by the national rail operator Korail. The fare structure is either identical or very similar for all of these lines. All buses and trains in the region are accessible with a T-money card, similar to London’s Oyster card. Fares are collected centrally and then distributed back to operators based on levels of usage.


The Korean government spends around £27bn on transport every year: that works out at 10 per cent more per person than the British government spends.  The Seoul subway’s annual loss of around £200m is covered by this budget.

The main reason the loss is much lower than TfL’s £458m is that, despite Seoul’s lower fares, it also has much lower maintenance costs. The oldest line, Line 1 is only 44 years old.

Higher levels of automation and lower crime rates also mean there are fewer staff. Workers pay is also lower: a newly qualified driver will be paid around £27,000 a year compared to £49,000 in London.

New infrastructure is paid for by central government. However, investment in the capital does not cause the same regional rivalries as it does in the UK for a variety of reasons. Firstly, investment is not so heavily concentrated in the capital. Five other cities have subways; the second city of Busan has an extensive five-line network.

What’s more, while investment is still skewed towards Seoul, it’s a much bigger city than London, and South Korea is physically a much smaller country than the UK (about the size of Scotland and Wales combined). Some 40 per cent of the national population lives on the Seoul network – and everyone else who lives on the mainland can be in Seoul within 3 hours.

Finally, politically the biggest divide in South Korea is between the south-west and the south-east (the recently ousted President Park Geun-Hye won just 11 per cent of the vote in the south west, while winning 69 per cent in the south-east). Seoul is seen as neutral territory.  


A driverless train on the Shinbundang Line. Image: Wikicommons.

The system is far from perfect. Seoul’s network is highly radial. It’s incredibly cheap and easy to travel from outer lying areas to the centre, and around the centre itself. But travelling from one of Seoul’s satellite cities to another by public transport is often difficult. A journey from central Goyang (population: 1m) to central Incheon (population: 3m) is around 30 minutes by car. By public transport, it takes around 2 hours. There is no real equivalent of the London Overground.

There is also a lack of fast commuter services. The four-track Seoul Line 1 offers express services to Incheon and Cheonan, and some commuter towns south of the city are covered by intercity services. But most large cities of hundreds of thousands of people within commuting distance (places comparable to Reading or Milton Keynes) are reliant on the subway network, and do not have a fast rail link that takes commuters directly to the city centre.

This is changing however with the construction of a system modelled on the Paris RER and London’s Crossrail. The GTX will operate at maximum speed of 110Mph. The first line (of three planned) is scheduled to open in 2023, and will extend from the new town of Ilsan on the North Korean border to the new town of Dongtan about 25km south of the city centre.

The system will stop much less regularly than Crossrail or the RER resulting in drastic cuts in journey times. For example, the time from llsan to Gangnam (of Gangnam Style fame) will be cut from around 1hr30 to just 17 minutes. When the three-line network is complete most of the major cities in the region will have a direct fast link to Seoul Station, the focal point of the GTX as well as the national rail network. A very good public transport network is going to get even better.