GOING STRONG

Oman 2015 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Lord Livingston, UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, on the historic ties between the UK and Oman, and the bilateral investment pipeline going forward.

Lord Livingston
BIOGRAPHY
Lord Livingston was appointed Minister of State for Trade and Investment on December 11, 2013 and leads on Foreign and Commonwealth Office relations with British businesses. He is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. Lord Livingston was CEO of BT Group from 2008 until 2013. Having joined BT in 2002, he served on the BT Group Board as Group Finance Director and CEO BT Retail, its consumer and small business division. Prior to this, Lord Livingston was Group Finance Director at Dixons Group plc from the age of 32, making him the youngest FTSE 100 CFO by some distance. Lord Livingston has also worked for 3i plc, Bank of America, and Arthur Andersen. He was previously a non-executive director of Hilton Group plc and is currently a non-executive director on the board of Celtic plc. He is a Chartered Accountant.

The UK is the largest foreign investor in Oman. How would you assess economic and trade relations between the two nations?

The UK and Oman enjoy excellent economic and trade relations built on deep foundations of friendship and trust. We have been trading for some 400 years. There has always been a long-term and sustainable approach to investment from both sides, and a good example of this is the 30-year agreement signed at the end of 2013 that will see BP invest $10 billion to develop the Khazzan gas field. The scale of UK investment in Oman is a clear sign of just how close our economic links are. According to recent figures, approximately 40% of FDI into Oman is from the UK. Furthermore, the two-way trade between Oman and the UK surged ahead by 17.5% to £671 million in 2013, over the previous year, mainly on account of growth in the UK's exports to the Sultanate. We hope that the recent launch of the Electronic Visa Waiver program for Omanis wishing to travel to the UK encourage further trade by making it easier for Omani businessmen to travel to the UK. The scheme means that Omanis can travel to the UK without the cost and inconvenience of obtaining a visa, instead simply filling in an online form. We greatly welcome the appointments in recent months of two new Co-Chairs of the Oman British Friendship Association (OBFA), which is the bilateral business council: on the Omani side, His Excellency Maqbool Sultan, the greatly respected former Minister of Commerce and Industry, and on the British side Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, a former senior diplomat with huge experience in the Middle East, who is now senior adviser to HSBC's Group CEO.

Why is Oman an attractive destination for UK investment?

Oman's stability gives UK investors great confidence. The strength and warmth of the bilateral relationship and our long trading history add to the attraction. Oman's infrastructure and development as a logistics hub through ports, rail, and road construction and expansion coupled with a choice of free trade zones offer a good mix for UK investors. Oman is a prosperous country with a young and ambitious population. Its policies on economic diversification and private-sector development create opportunities for the UK to support and partner in the many innovative companies and industries that are being created as a result.

What areas of bilateral trade have the most potential for growth?

As Oman continues to put a lot of effort into increasing connectivity, through seaports, airports, and road and rail infrastructure, we expect companies from the UK, which has a long history in logistics and developing railway lines, to be involved in these projects throughout. The UK's competences are well regarded in areas such as security systems, operation, maintenance, management, training, and inter-modal transport facilities. I also believe there will be great potential for growth in the healthcare sector, where major new projects will present opportunities for long-term partnerships in specialist healthcare areas. The continued drive for private sector growth and job creation in Oman has created demand for education and training services, an area in which the UK has long been active in Oman and enjoys an excellent reputation. There will of course be many areas of potential growth for Omani investment in the UK. The UK is one of the world's most competitive places for investment management, as well as being a hub for finance raising. We would hope to see Oman choosing the UK as its preferred partner in both of these areas.