2024 a 'critically important' year in UAE-UK trade relationship, says Emirati minister

Minister of State and co-chairman of the UAE-UK Business Council says Emirati investment in new technology is 'helping to create exciting opportunities' for British companies

Minister of State Ahmed Al Sayegh says securing trade agreements opens up exciting opportunities with the UK. Victor Besa / The National
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This year is set to be “critically important” in the trading relationship between the UAE and the UK, Emirati Minister of State Ahmed Al Sayegh said in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Mr Al Sayegh, who is also the co-chairman of the UAE-UK Business Council, said the “UAE’s proactive approach to securing trade agreements with key partners worldwide, our continuing economic diversification and our investment in new technologies [are] helping to create exciting new opportunities for UK companies across a wider spectrum of industries”.

Mr Al Sayegh made the comments as the UAE-UK Business Council set its strategic agenda for this year, which “will focus on strengthening and broadening bilateral knowledge exchange, trade and investment flows, with specific priorities including a continued focus on climate action and increasing the use of AI in life sciences and manufacturing”.

WTO ministerial meeting

The council's plenary meeting in Abu Dhabi was timed to coincide with the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation also taking place in Abu Dhabi.

The sixth round of negotiations towards a free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and Gulf Co-operation Council states concluded earlier this month, with the UK's Department for Business and Trade describing the progress as “good”.

Both sides remain “committed to securing an ambitious, comprehensive and modern agreement fit for the 21st century”, the department said.

The WTO meeting in Abu Dhabi has also afforded the UK's Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, the opportunity to meet face to face with all six of her GCC counterparts at the same time.

The UAE's ambassador to the UK, Mansoor Abulhoul, said trade and investment constituted the bedrock of the relationship between the two countries and that “the benefits of an FTA are clear, and I remain faithful that the UAE will be able to serve as a gold standard for the GCC”.

Both Ms Badenoch and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive and managing director of Mubadala Investment Company, spoke at the UK-UAE Business Council plenary meeting, which also identified four areas of strategic priority for 2024:

Firstly, a push for member-led policy papers that advocate future opportunities for UAE-UK collaboration, including on decarbonisation and cancer care.

Secondly, launching campaigns to support education, skills exchange and business collaborations in the use of artificial intelligence in several sectors, including manufacturing and life sciences.

Thirdly, a continuing focus on climate action and sustainability to advance collaboration between the two countries in climate finance, energy transition and decarbonisation.

Fourthly, co-operation between the business communities in both countries that seeks to identify and, where possible eliminate, trade barriers, as well as discover new opportunities to work together.

The UK's trade and investment relationship with the UAE is now worth more than £25 billion and the Emirates is Britain's 19th biggest trading partner.

Meanwhile, UAE investment into the UK has amounted to more than £10 billion over the past three years.

“Likewise, over 13,500 UK companies are exporting their products to the UAE, and this will certainly increase once the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement comes into force,” UAE-UK Business Council co-chair Lord Udny-Lister told the plenary meeting.

Updated: February 27, 2024, 10:46 AM