Dubai: Mayor of London Boris Johnson has thrown his weight behind Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid, as he seeks to strengthen London’s historic ties with the UAE.
“I’ll certainly support Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid and extend our all-out cooperation to Dubai to win this important global event,” Johnson, who is leading a trade mission to the Gulf, told the media at a briefing on Tuesday.
“I personally back Dubai and will be happy to tell others to do so. It will be good for Dubai.”
Riding high on the successful organisation of London Olympics 2012 and increased economic activities including strong investor interest, he is on a Gulf-wide tour to attract more foreign investment in some major projects in London that will create more opportunities and help its economy grow further.
London has seen more foreign companies having set up business than any other city since 2006 while the city has the highest presence of the international retailers in Europe making it the destination of choice for international shoppers.
He said his tour of the UAE has been interesting and rewarding so far, at the backdrop of “massive economic penetration between London and the UAE”.
“London is an international city, a great metropolis,” Johnson asserted. “London is growing and the city prepares to accommodate 1 million more population by 2021 – which will add pressure on its infrastructure. We need more investment in infrastructure and housing to tackle this.”
He said, his team has brought 18 major areas of opportunities for investment to the UAE investors.
His team has held meetings with officials of Mubadala and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), Masdar and DP World on investment opportunities.
“We had some serious discussions with Adia and Mubadala on their possible investment in new opportunities. We have had some interesting conversations and they are genuinely interested in our projects in London,” Johnson said.
His tour takes place a few weeks before the official visit of His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President, to the United Kingdom later this month when a number of agreements are expected to be signed.
He said, the historic visit will help strengthen the existing strong relationship. “It will be a great honour for us to host His Highness Shaikh Khalifa in London and we are looking forward to the occasion,” he said.
Dr Gerard Lyons, Chief Economic Advisor to the Mayor of London, said, “We did not come here with a shopping list. We are here to cement the strong relationship with the UAE and promote the economic opportunities in London.”
The UAE is a major trading partner of the UK and the largest in the Middle East.
“The UAE is now the UK’s 13th largest market (£5.16 billion) for the export of goods (only) moving up three places and a 9 per cent increase on 2011. Imports from the UAE to the UK amounted to £2.19 billion up from £1.88 billion in 2011. Thus total bilateral trade of goods only reached £7.35 billion 2012,” said a British government spokesperson.
“In January 2013 UK exports to the UAE were £381 million, which represents a decrease of 11 per cent on the same period in 2012. UK imports were £237.8 million, an increase of 57 per cent on the same period in 2012. Thus bilateral trade is up by 7 per cent on Jan 2012,” she said.
There are over 100,000 British citizens resident in the UAE and 4,000 British companies active in the UAE. There are approximately 170 flights each week between the UAE and the UK, operated by British Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates. Over 1 million British visitors travel to the UAE annually and 50,000 Emiratis travel to the UK every year.
Dubai International Airport, the biggest aviation hub in the Middle East which recently overtook Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport as the world’s second biggest airport for international passengers, is poised to overtake London Heathrow by 2016-17, according to projections.
“I think it will be sooner, maybe by 2015,” Johnson said. “Dubai is currently running at about 60 million passengers a year with two runways. Heathrow might not be ahead for longer, may be till 2015.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson was all praise for Dubai. “It’s great to see so many amazing things in this city and how they have done it,” he said.
“When they have an idea, they back it and put all-out efforts to make it work. I am amazed to see how this city has grown in such a short time.
Emirates Air Line (Cable Car)
Johnson also cited Emirates Airline’s investment in the £60 million Thames Cable Car project.
The Emirates Air Line (also known as the Thames cable car) is a cable car link across the River Thames in London built with sponsorship from the airline Emirates. The service opened on 28 June 2012 and is operated by Transport for London. It has an average ridership of 31,601 passenger journeys a week.
“It is the only piece of infrastructure that will cover its capital cost ahead of projections – by 2019,” he said. “More than 1.9 million riders travelled in the cable car – more than the projected 1.3 million within this time. The feedback that we have received from people is wonderful.”
The service, announced in July 2010 and estimated to cost £60 million, comprises a 1-kilometre line that crosses the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. The cable car provides a crossing every 15 seconds, carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, equivalent to the capacity of 50 bus trips per hour.
Boris Johnson on Monday visited Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s sustainable, low-carbon urban development that is fully powered by renewable energy.
He said, Masdar will purchase a fleet of low-carbon buses from the UK to run in its facilities in Abu Dhabi. “I am delighted to have seen Masdar City first-hand to understand more about Abu Dhabi’s ambitious plans for sustainable development,” he said.
“London is also working to apply low-carbon solutions such as our public bike hire scheme and retrofitting homes and offices to become energy efficient. These kinds of projects, along with initiatives such as decentralised energy supply, are helping to cut emissions and secure London’s energy future as well as create jobs and develop a green economy. My trip has confirmed there is much we can learn from each other’s efforts to ensure that future growth comes with full regard for our environment.’
London’s growing stature as a leading centre of Islamic Finance and Dubai’s quest to develop a parallel Islamic Economy is expected to strengthen the ties of these two cities, Johnson said.
London, which has been the venue for $20 billion sukuk issuance – to reinforce its position as a major hub of Islamic finance – will host a major Islamic Finance conference this year.
Johnson said, he has already invited UAE’s leaders, especially His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to attend the event.
“London will be the first city outside the Muslim world to proudly host this conference as we are becoming one of the biggest centres of Islamic finance. With Dubai’s plans for the development of an Islamic Economy, it will help us to synergise our resources together,” he said.