How has the Kuwait-UK relationship evolved in the past 120 years?
We are indeed marking 120 years of friendship between both nations, but we are also marking the deep and broad cooperation that Britain and Kuwait have together today, and we are looking ahead as well to developing that in the future. We have a very effective bilateral framework in the form of the Joint Steering Group (JSG), a result of a state visit by HH the Amir to the UK in 2012. That JSG will be meeting in summer 2019 for the 14th time, bringing together officials from both sides across multiple areas such as trade and investment, defense, and security. The relationship has evolved in positive directions. We are able to work together in areas that require a lot of trust and confidence on both sides. Our bilateral relationship is flourishing and, from our experience, we can observe a 20% YoY increase in British exports to Kuwait.
What initiatives are both nations implementing to strengthen their defense cooperation?
Defense and security are high priority areas for us, and always have been. Kuwait is a key friend and ally for us in the region, and more broadly. We have longstanding and excellent bilateral cooperation in this area, and actually have a permanent British presence in Kuwait in the form of the British Military Mission and 36 officers embedded with the Kuwaiti Armed Forces. We also have regular joint exercising and training between the Kuwaiti and the British Armed Forces. We jointly decided in December 2018 to step up the pace and frequency of our joint exercises and training activities. We completed an exercise called Desert Warrior in January 2019, which we will repeat in January 2020. There will be another joint exercise in the meantime in autumn, supplemented by an increased pace in short-term training teams. Additionally, we were pleased to recently welcome a Type 45 Royal Navy Destroyer HMS Dragon, which is one of the more modern ships in the Royal Navy. This was possible because now, under the Gulf Strategy, and for the first time in 40 years, the UK has a permanent military presence in the region in the shape of the naval facility in Bahrain. Another aspect of our international security cooperation was the Saif Sareea 3 exercise in Oman at the end of 2018, which was the largest exercise in the region going on for 20 years. There has been a stronger emphasis under the Gulf Strategy since the Prime Minister's speech in Bahrain at the end of 2016, and we are now delivering on that. We see Kuwait and other countries of the Gulf as very important allies for the UK in defending our joint interests in the region. Furthermore, Kuwait is an important ally for us in the anti-Daesh coalition.
In what ways can UK companies help Kuwait increase its production capacity and modernize its industry and infrastructure?
There are two parts to that question. In terms of production capacity in the oil and gas sector, British companies are playing an important part in helping the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) increase production capacity, but also meet stringent, improved environmental standards. BP and Shell have both signed Enhanced Technical Services Agreements with KOC to improve their extraction of hydrocarbons, capacity building, improved reservoir management, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using concentrated solar power, and carbon-capture storage and usage. Separately, BP is working with Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC) under another Enhanced Technical Service Agreement to offer innovative technical expertise for the Al Zour Refinery Project, using the latest UK technology.