(Updated 09 December 2014)
Dating back well over 100 years, commercial connections between Wales and the United States are both deep and wide ranging. Cardiff became the world’s largest coal exporting port at the end of the 19th century, and Welsh coat fired many of the ships transporting European immigrants to the U.S. during this period. In the late 1800s, a pair of Welshmen developed a new steelmaking process and sold the patent to Andrew Carnegie, who used it extensively in the United States.
Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, manufacturing has modernized, and commercial ties between Wales and the U.S. remain strong. Wales has experienced an economic renaissance in recent years, successfully shifting from a heavily industrialized base highly dependent on coal, iron, and steel, to a more knowledge-based economy focused on service industries, defense, aviation, and specialized high tech niche markets. However, while Wales has greatly improved its economic situation since the 1980s, it still falls behind other regions of the UK in terms of key indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, average earnings, and activity rates. For example, the latest estimate of GDP per capita in Wales was just 82 percent of the UK average, while average earnings lag the UK average by around 10 percent.
Approximately 170 U.S. companies have a presence in Wales, with a combined investment of about $8 billion, providing employment for over 30,000 people.
Among the better-known firms are Alcoa, Dow Corning, Ford, GE, and Visteon.