This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE’s ambassador to the UK, has said that trade talks between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are “progressing well” and showing encouraging signs.

Speaking to Bloomberg TV on the UAE’s hosting of COP28, the ambassador said he was “pleased that all six member states have engaged,” while stressing that each GCC member state was responsible for its own negotiations.

“I don’t want to come out with any big statements now, but I am really sort of encouraged by what can be achieved by deepening our trade links with the UK.”

The GCC consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Backstory of negotiations

The then-international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan launched negotiations in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh in June 2022.

At the time, the government said that any trade deal could be worth an extra £1.6bn a year to the UK economy, with the food and drink sector in particular being targeted, as the Gulf States are heavily reliant on imported food.

In the latest update provided by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), it is noted that the fourth round of negotiations took place in London and saw negotiations over a number of policy areas.

A fifth round of negotiations is expected to be held before the end of the year.

UAE and fintech

Mansoor Abulhoul mentioned that trade between his country and the UK had reached an all-time high in 2021, boosted by a 2021 sovereign partnership between the two nations.

He said that the UAE and the City of London were important for each other in trade terms, mentioning the two decades of “deep ties” between the Square Mile and UAE’s own financial institutions.

“We are looking to double down on our relationship with global financial centres, like the City of London.

“There is huge scope, if you think of the Middle East and North Africa, if you think a lot of it is unbanked.”


He made his comments as the UAE prepares to host the latest COP in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December.

The decision had been criticised heavily by environmental groups, which point out that UAE and other gulf states rely heavily on carbon-intensive industries like fossil fuels.

Mansoor Abulhoul defended the decision, saying that future energy systems could only be built with heavy investment from Middle Eastern countries and that everyone needed to come together in a “collaborative effort” to tackle climate change.