TBY talks to Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Minister of UK Trade & Investment, on upcoming events designed to bring companies in the UK and the UAE closer together.
TBY You last visited in Autumn 2011. Why did the recent trade mission choose the UAE specifically?
LORD GREEN In the current economic climate, trade and investment have taken center stage as sources of sustainable growth, with governments and consumers no longer able to turn to debt to finance their spending. The UAE is a very important market for the UK. It is the 16th largest export market for the UK globally, and the number one market in the region. It is an exciting and growing market that UK companies are very keen to do business with. While our relationship is very strong, there is still more to do in order to build up business in the UAE and to encourage companies from the UAE to enter the UK market.
During your trip in 2011, many references were made to London as the “Eighth Emirate.” What is special about the investment relationship between the UAE and the UK?
UAE companies have invested significantly in the UK, from the London Gateway, which will be London’s largest deep-sea port and logistics park, funded by DP World, to the London Array offshore wind farm. I welcome this investment, which brings great benefits to both sides. The UAE is also a popular destination for people from the UK. There are some 4,000 British companies based in the UAE and 100,000 British nationals living there. Many of them have been involved in the UAE’s development over the past decade, helping to make it the exciting, diverse regional hub it has become.
Dubai has emerged as a regional hub for investment and business activities throughout the Middle East. What has made Dubai successful in this way?
It is clear that in recent years the center of gravity in the global economy has shifted from west to east, and from north to south. Dubai has successfully positioned itself as a hub for the growing economies of the Middle East and Africa. The vision of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has diversified the country’s economy away from traditional oil and gas businesses into a finance, investment, and tourism hub.
In which industries and sectors do you see the most potential for greater commercial integration between Dubai and the UK?
There are many sectors where the UK and the UAE already work closely together. Ties with the Lord Mayor of the City of London are very close. In terms of infrastructure, British companies are very active in the UAE and vice versa. There are also great opportunities for closer commercial integration across all sectors, such as education, ICT, health care, energy, life sciences, and the creative industries. In autumn 2011, UK Trade & Investment will be inviting British companies to attend the “Big 5 2012” construction fair and trade show.
What is your outlook for UK businesses operating in Dubai and for the region as a whole in the coming year?
I am very positive about UK businesses in the UAE, not least because an increasing number of them are going out to test the waters. UK Trade & Investment in the UAE helped around 2,400 British companies in 2011, and this number has grown despite the global downturn—a sure sign that the market continues to offer exciting opportunities and that UK SMEs are willing to take on the challenge. We are well on the way to achieving our aim of increasing bilateral trade to £12 billion by 2015—a good indication of the strong economic bonds that continue to exist between our two countries and the significant investment opportunities that lie ahead.
© The Business Year