Today the Minister for Trade, Investment and Small Business Lord Davies will lead a delegation of British companies to the UAE. Ahead of his visit he tells Global Arab Network
why the UK and the Middle East region remain great trading partners.
By Lord Davies
The UAE is a hugely important market for the UK. It’s our number one trading partner in the Middle East. I am visiting the UAE this week accompanied by 70 British SMEs. Our mission is simple - to help increase business and partnership opportunities.
It’s an impressive delegation with companies from a range of sectors including education, mass transport, security, power and water. The size and scope of the delegation shows the UK’s enthusiasm to explore new business opportunities.
At the end of last year, the UK and UAE Governments made a commitment to increase bilateral trade to £12 billion by 2015, a 60 per cent increase from current levels.
While the importance of the UAE is well known, we should not overlook the wider Middle East and North African region. During my time as Trade, Investment and Small Business Minister, I have travelled to over 30 markets, including three trips to the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia and Algeria.
What continues to strike me is the sheer pace of development right across the region. Significant change is underway with economies being opened up, new industries being created, regional centres of excellence being developed, and new schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure being built on a massive scale.
The UK is particularly well placed to offer the knowledge, skills and technologies that are essential to help achieve these ambitious plans for economic growth and prosperity.
Despite the very challenging global economic conditions, bilateral trade between the UK and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) increased to over £35 billion in 2009.
UK exports of goods to the region held steady at around £13 billion, while the UK also recorded significant increases in exports to MENA markets – with exports of goods to Libya up by 51 per cent, exports of goods to Syria up by 59 per cent, Algeria up by 22 per cent and Saudi Arabia up by 16 per cent.
During a visit to Saudi Arabia in December, I visited some of the major infrastructure projects being rolled out in Saudi Arabia, including King Abdullah Economic City and held discussions aimed at matching project opportunities to UK expertise in transport, power, water, healthcare and education. We also established a UK-Saudi Financial Services Task Force, aimed at stimulating stronger links with the City of London.
I visited Algeria last year to highlight opportunities for developing stronger trade links in multiple sectors: in particular, in financial services. UK trade with Libya has continued to go from strength to strength. More Libyans are now studying at UK Universities than any other Arab nation and at John Moores University in Liverpool over one third of PhD students are Libyan. 2009 also saw a strengthening of UK trading relations with Morocco and Tunisia.
In all of this, UK Trade & Investment has played a major role both in stimulating trade and facilitating investment. We have staff in all the English regions and expert staff throughout the Middle East.
I am certain that British companies will continue to perform strongly in the Middle East and North Africa, assisted by the long-standing links that we enjoy with the region, the widespread use of English in business circles and the respect held for British goods and services.
The Middle East and North Africa is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic and rewarding regions in which to do business.
I hope this week’s visit to the UAE helps strengthen our trade links and takes us a step a closer to achieving our ambitious trade targets.Global Arab Network
Written by Lord Davies, UK Minister for Trade, Investment and Small Business, for Global Arab Network.