Dubai: The UK wants to take advantage of its strategic partnership with the UAE as it seeks to shape its post-Brexit economy, Dr Liam Fox told Gulf News.
Fox, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, said the UK understood the geopolitical importance of the Middle East, and already had strong trade ties, particularly in defence and security.
“In this region there are huge opportunities across a whole range of sectors — in fintech, in elements of manufacturing, transport infrastructure and so on. We can be involved in a lot of these projects, and we want to be.”
The UAE is the UK’s fourth largest trade partner outside Europe, behind the US, China and Japan, he told business people at the Capital Club, at Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) on Monday morning.
About 5,000 UK companies do business in the UAE, he said, and the country is home to around 100,000 British expatriates.
“It’s a very, very big market for us and we want to ensure that we can get that to continue to grow, and we will want to look at all the areas we trade in to see where we might be able to open that up.”
Dr Fox said the UAE was also a major investor in the UK, with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds having invested more than £1 billion in offshore wind farms in the UK, and having committed to invest in urban regeneration in Manchester.
“One of my biggest frustration is that people don’t appreciate that trade is a two-way relationship — it can be a win-win,” he said at the club. “We often welcome inward flows of capital for the jobs they create, yet fail to see the benefits of outward investment.”
UK overseas investments earned enough over the past 10 years to offset its average trade deficit, he said.
UK firms already represent 15 per cent of the regulated financial firms in DIFC, but there is still potential for more, he said. He said the UK and UAE should work together on reducing barriers to entry for firms from both countries.
And he said the UK’s experience in running events such as the 20102 Olympics and Paralympics and the 2014 Commonwealth Games meant British firms could help Dubai prepare for the World Expo 2020.
“It is a two-way flow,” he said in an interview with Gulf News on Sunday evening. “It’s about how we can get investment into the United Kingdom, foreign direct investment. Also how we can use the investment that we’ve got here for our mutual benefit, how can we add value to the economies inside the UAE in a way that causes their economic capacity to increase, which in itself becomes a bigger market for UK exports. And that’s the great thing about free trade ... everyone can actually benefit from a more liberal trading environment.”