15th December, 2020
On 15 December, the Chamber organised a webinar on UK-GCC trade and investment, held in the light of the start of joint governmental level review into outstanding trade and investment issues.
The event, chaired by the Rt Hon Baroness Symons, ABCC Chairman, took place with the participation of Mr Ranil Jayawardena MP, the UK’s Minister for International Trade and Mr Simon Penney, H M Trade Commissioner for the Middle East. Mr Bandar Reda, ABCC Secretary General & CEO, completed the line-up of participants.
Baroness Symons announced that upwards of 300 delegates had registered for the event, which reflected considerable interest in the opportunities available in this core partnership between the UK and the GCC.
In her opening remarks, the chairman said that, despite the challenging times with the covid-19 pandemic and the still to be resolved Brexit terms, the clear message was that the UK wants more trade with the Arab world.
In his remarks, Mr Bandar Reda reflected on how the UK had embarked on a new independent trade policy outside the European Union, while the GCC countries were making great strides to build more diversified economies and implement their ambitious strategic visions. He believed that this meant that there could be no better time to assess how the business community can take advantage of the new opportunities emerging between the UK and the Gulf.
Mr Reda mentioned the discussions taking place at UK-GCC government level to address opportunities and to identify any outstanding barriers that might adversely affect trade and investment.
The Chamber anticipated a strong growth in bilateral trade and investment looking beyond Brexit and the lifting of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that Britain and the Gulf countries already enjoyed a strong trading partnership as clearly demonstrated by the rising value of trade which reached £45 billion last year, official figures indicate.
Mr Simon Penney began by remarking that nobody could have anticipated the events of 2020 and mentioned the cancellations of Expo 2020 and other major business related events. The global economy had taken a massive hit from Covid-19.
An appropriate response of UK firms to the economic downturn at home was to grow overseas, Mr Penney said.
There was great potential for this because at present less than ten per cent of UK firms were involved in exporting.
The Trade Commissioner praised the strategic role of the ABCC in ensuring the continued flow of trade even throughout the pandemic.
He stressed that the UK wants to overcome any outstanding barriers to trade with the GCC and turned to explaining the support available from the DIT for exporters which comes in the shape of advice, working to connect UK exporters to overseas buyers and financial assistance through UKEF.
UKEF was involved in supporting many major projects around the Gulf, mentioning examples in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Mr Penney described the importance of the GCC markets to the UK, confirming the £45 billion value in trade last year that was mentioned by a previous speaker.
The GCC was, in addition, the UK’s third largest export market outside Europe after the US and China.
UK-GCC trade was vital as was Gulf investment in the UK economy which stood at £125 billion, he said.
The UK wanted to remain a top destination for attracting FDI and pointed to the actions that the UK government was taking to ensure this, such as the establishment of a new office for investment.
The priority areas of support for UKEF were major infrastructure projects and the MENA was a key region.
Advising delegates on new opportunities Mr Penney cited the new cities infrastructure, clean energy projects, renewables, energy efficiency and clean transport as important.
He stated that trade policy was a key aspect of the work of the DIT team whose leading aim was to break down trade barriers. This was the reason for starting the joint trade and investment review.
British and its partners are seeking to tackle market access barriers and boost trade in various sectors such as healthcare and life sciences, tech, renewables and Intellectual Property.
In his contribution to the discussion, the Minister Mr Jayawardena praised the strong united response of the UK and its Gulf partners to the pandemic which demonstrated the closeness of our relationship.
This provided a strong basis for closer bilateral relations going forward as the UK develops an independent trade policy outside the European Union. Prospects were good for deepening relations that will boost exports, the minister indicated.
Export is not only about goods but also includes services which meant there are opportunities for the UK in those areas where it is strong such as financial services.
The Minister concluded by urging firms to send in feedback to the DIT to enable policies to be improved and any barriers to trade to be removed.
He stressed that the team at the DIT was working hard to support business and by working together we will overcome any challenges ahead.
He sought to assure business and investors of the continuity in trade now that the UK had left the EU.
The UK wanted to work more closely with its friends and partners in the fast growing markets in the Gulf.
In response, Baroness Symons welcomed the minister’s positive comments and said that any barriers that exporters might encounter would be reported to the DIT.
Discussion followed on issues such as economic priorities post-covid, the challenges of climate change and the work to be done, and the key sectors for cooperation were identified such as medical tech and ed-tech.Back To 2020 Gallery