THE TIES THAT BIND

UAE 2018 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, on building new alliances, elevating trade partnerships, and working to bring people together.

Theresa May
BIOGRAPHY
Theresa May has been involved in politics at all levels for many years, beginning by stuffing envelopes at her local Conservative association before going on to be a councillor in the London borough of Merton from 1986 to 1994. She was elected MP for Maidenhead in May 1997, after which she held several shadow positions, including Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Shadow Secretary of State for the Family, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. She served as Home Secretary from May 2010 until July 2016 and became Prime Minister on July 13, 2016.

Over the last few months, one of the prevailing sentiments in all my conversations with GCC leaders has been this sense that in challenging times, you turn to your oldest and most dependable friends. That is the spirit in which I recently visited the GCC. We have a rich history on which to build. From the very first treaties, the UK has been proudly at the forefront of a relationship between the Gulf and the West that has been the bedrock of our shared prosperity and security.

As the UK leaves the EU, I am determined that we should seize the opportunity to get out into the world and to shape an even bigger global role for my country, to build new alliances but more importantly to go even further in working with old friends, like our allies here in the Gulf, who have stood alongside us for centuries.

In accepting the honor of addressing GCC leaders, I seek not just to offer a message of continuity, but to begin to build a bold new chapter in our cooperation; to forge a strategic relationship, a relationship based on true partnership, and an enduring commitment between our countries and our peoples; a relationship through which together we can meet these great challenges to our shared security and prosperity, and grab this opportunity to build an exciting future for the generations that follow us.

When I think of the growth of this region over the past 50 years, from the transformation of Dubai to the position of the Gulf as the UK's third-largest export market, I never forget that the bedrock of this prosperity and stability has been the relationship between the Gulf and the West. Now, in this period of uncertainty, is the time to recommit to this relationship.

Already the Gulf is a special market for the UK. Last year alone, trade between the UK and GCC was worth more than GBP30 billion. At the same time, Gulf investment in the UK is helping to regenerate areas from Aberdeen to Teeside, and from Manchester to London. I am determined that we should do everything possible to build on this and elevate our trade and investment to an even more ambitious level.

Free trade makes us all richer. It creates jobs. It increases investment. It improves productivity. It transforms living standards and creates opportunities for all of our citizens. And nowhere is that more important than here with our friends and allies in the Gulf. I am delighted that we agreed to set up a new Joint Working Group to examine how we can unblock remaining barriers to trade and take steps to further liberalize our economies for the benefit of our mutual prosperity.

Just as we take every possible step to break down the barriers that are restricting our trade and prosperity, it is also important that we continue the work to bring our peoples together and to ensure that the benefits of greater prosperity are shared by all. We all recognize that there is some way to go before we can say that these economies really work for everyone.

But I have been encouraged by recent economic and social reforms you have taken forward and by the bold vision set out by all of the Gulf States for more fundamental and lasting change, most recently with Abu Dhabi's vision for 2030.

This vital strategic relationship between the UK and the Gulf—a partnership steeped in so much history and so full of potential for our future—now demands even more concentrated efforts. That is why I want to continue the hugely positive discussions we had in this first ever UK-GCC dialog at leader level.