A high-level panel of speakers from the UK and Kuwait were brought together by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce at its webinar on 14th September.
Rt Hon Baroness Symons, ABCC Chairman, opened the discussion by stating that Kuwait was one of the UK’s oldest friends in the Middle East and the two nations shared common interests that covered far more than commercial issues. She was convinced of the increasing opportunities for expansion of their bilateral trading relationship.
The first speaker, H E Mr Diraar Yusuf Alghanim, a member of the Board of Directors Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) and of the ABCC, began by praising the resilience that Kuwait had shown in its response to the covid-19 pandemic as it worked to protect its people and economy.
He remarked on the repercussions of the pandemic on global oil prices and the success of the country’s private sector in improving efficiency and maintaining supplies despite potential supply chain disruptions.
One of Kuwait’s key assets was its strong banking sector, he stated, which will be more vital as the global economy fully recovers from the pandemic.
The Rt Hon Baroness Morris of Bolton OBE DL, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Jordan, Kuwait and the Palestinian Territories, reflected on her almost eight years as the British PM’s Trade Envoy.
Top level discussions on trade between the two countries had continued unabated during the pandemic under a joint steering group established in 2012.
She mentioned that bilateral trade had actually recorded an increase on the previous year for the first six months of 2020, according to recently released official data.
H E Mr Khaled Abdulaziz Al-Duwaisan, GCVO, Ambassador of the State of Kuwait to the UK, mentioned that Kuwait’s Vision 2035 had set out a path for the country to become a financial and trading hub for the region.
Setting up business in Kuwait gave a company access to the markets of its neighbours and into South Asia, the Ambassador stated.
With Kuwait making investments in its infrastructure including roads, rail and metro systems, plus its healthcare and education systems, many new opportunities were coming available for UK investors.
H E Sheikh Dr Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Director General, Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) began by explaining how the KDIPA provided a one-stop shop service where companies could obtain details about incentives such as an up to 10 year tax holiday; 100% business ownership throughout Kuwait; protection of assets and products.
Opportunities in the country were emerging for innovative companies in healthcare, ICT, and digitalisation, among others, he said.
HMA Michael Davenport, Her Majesty’s British Ambassador to Kuwait, began by mentioning the celebrations held in 2019 to mark the 120th anniversary of the UK-Kuwait friendship treaty, which indicated the long and enduring cooperation enjoyed by the two countries.
He expressed the wish to see more UK firms taking advantage of the opportunities in Kuwait and joining the many UK firms already established in the market: such as, BP, Shell, Rolls Royce, Mott MacDonald, Foster & Partners, HSCB, DLA Piper, Wood, Parsons, Petrofac, Debenhams and Mothercare; showing that British business was active across all main sectors.
The Ambassador highlighted recent contracts in Kuwait won by UK firms. UK group Addfield Environmental Systems had won a major contract to set up a waste-to-energy plant and Smiths Detection won a contract to supply baggage screening equipment for Kuwait’s new International Airport Terminal 2.
Mr Bandar Reda, ABCC CEO & Secretary General, warmly thanked the speakers for their impressive contributions which had highlighted how Kuwait saw the UK as a long term partner.
He welcomed Kuwait’s vision 2035 which was opening up many new opportunities for cooperation.
Business had not shut down during the pandemic and the ABCC was ready to support companies seeking to work in Kuwait and able to help eliminate any obstacles they faced in doing business, Mr Bandar stated.