Global Britain looks to the Middle East with pledge to Gulf nations and imminent deal with Israel

Fri 2 Jul 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

International trade secretary Liz Truss travelled to Israel this week with the UK reportedly ‘on the brink’ of completing a £5bn trade deal with one of the Middle East’s biggest economies

Truss met with Israel’s minister of economy Orna Barbivai and tweeted that they had discussed deepening trade ties in areas such as technology and data.

Going further

The UK signed an agreement in January rolling over the trade terms it previously had with Israel when it was a member of the EU. In May, ministers pledged to “go further”.

This week, the ministers spoke about implementing the rollover agreement and examined options to upgrade trade and investment ties in the future.

Gulf opportunity

The government has also this week announced the completion of a Joint Trade and Investment Review (JITR) with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) trade bloc.

It identified a range of priority sectors for future UK-Gulf collaboration. Trade between the UK and GCC nations is currently valued at around £30bn a year.

GCC countries include Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Swift progress’

There is a “desire for swift progress to realise market access opportunities”, the JITR policy paper notes.

Sectors highlighted include professional and business services, agriculture, food and drink, education, healthcare and life sciences, financial services, environmental technologies and renewable energy.

Moving on from oil

Britain could become a key collaborator in the region as it seeks to diversify from a reliance on oil, a trade summit heard.

Speaking at the GCC-UK Trade Circle Summit, Matthew Hurn, executive director at Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, said Britain’s climate change goals offered opportunities for GCC investors, reports The National.

“If they are looking at things around energy storage, electric vehicles, there are so many opportunities there,” he said.

Investment fund

In return, the GCC offers lucrative investment opportunities for British firms with expertise in the renewable sectors.

In March, the UAE and UK launched a £1bn investment fund targeting life sciences over five years.