Business | Analysis

Building relations with the ‘eighth emirate’

Mutually beneficial UAE-UK partnership crosses sectors including education, energy, defence and many others

  • By Roger Gifford
  • Published: 20:30 February 18, 2013
  • Gulf News

London: Last summer, the UAE and Team GB took to the Wembley Stadium pitch as competitors at London 2012.

Away from the football field, however, the UAE-UK relationship is defined by our close partnership and it is in that spirit that I am leading a senior City of London business delegation to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

More than one million British nationals visit the UAE every year and more than 100,000 British citizens live and work in the country. Meanwhile, thousands of Emiratis come to the UK as tourists, students or to do business — leading to London being labelled the “eighth emirate”.

This mutually beneficial UAE-UK partnership crosses sectors including education, energy, defence and many others. When it comes to financial services, the City views this relationship as one of sharing skills and experience to grow both sectors. Closer partnership will support the wider goals of economic diversification, growth and Emiratisation.
Today, there are around 5,000 British companies in the UAE, many of which are looking for opportunities to grow their business even further. The joint UK-UAE taskforce set up in 2010 has played a key role in strengthening our relationship and we have made major strides towards the goal of increasing bilateral trade to £12 billion (Dh68.38 billion) by 2015. In fact we are well on course to realising this target and the 16 per cent increase in UK exports during the first half of 2012 was a positive step towards achieving this.

UK Trade & Investment has recognised the importance of the UAE by identifying it as one of a High Growth Market under its five-year strategy. Our commitment to the UAE was underscored by Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit last November accompanied by Lord Green. The visit signalled a commitment at the high level to cementing the long-term partnership with a close friend and an important ally.

As the Prime Minister’s made clear during his visit to Zayed University, education is crucial to fostering the skills base necessary to encourage job creation and growth. The provision of world class education has been central to the UK’s reputation for developing and attracting the talent needed by firms operating in the global financial services industry. Closer partnership will benefit both sides.

More than 2,800 UAE students were welcomed in the UK last year. Meanwhile, there are more overseas campuses of British Universities here than there are from any other country. As Chancellor of City University, I am impressed by the achievements of Cass Business School in Dubai. Consistently rated as one of the world’s top Business Schools, its presence in the UAE is supporting the Emiratisation drive to produce the next generation of great leaders in this region.

City firms are also actively assisting this Emiratisation process by aiding the development of Emirati bankers, accountants, lawyers and other professionals.

Global leaders in corporate law, Clifford Chance, Trowers & Hamlins, Herbert Smith and Allen & Overy are leading the way with training programmes in English law for young Emiratis. HSBC and Standard Chartered continue to make a considerable contribution to training talented Emiratis and have done so throughout their long partnership with the UAE. Many other UK companies are actively involved in doing the same across other sectors.
The UK’s reputation for quality also extends to large infrastructure projects. As London 2012 vividly demonstrated, the UK has a strong track record in delivering major schemes on time and on budget. Dubai is already a location for many major sporting and business events and should the city bid for the Games in the future it can rely on the support of UK’s expertise in every element from planning to execution.

UK companies could bring their expertise to a wide range of projects across the UAE, ranging from roads to railways, homes to hospitals. If the UAE’s bid for Expo 2020 is successful, the need for top class infrastructure will only be accelerated as demonstrated by the ambitious expansion plans for the Dubai Metro and Etihad Rail — linking the world’s largest aviation hub Al Maktoum Airport.

The City has considerable expertise in mobilising the capital needed for such large-scale development. In particular, public-private partnership (PPP) can provide a financing model that enables the UAE to lock in long-term expertise through involving the private sector in public service delivery. British companies have experience of working on such large scale projects from design to delivery and are uniquely placed to help turn the UAE’s plans into reality.

This is a two-way partnership and we are also keen on encouraging the UAE to think about investing further in the UK. Half the top 10 sovereign wealth funds — including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority — have offices in London and Etihad Airways chose Manchester as the location for their European centre. Projects such as the London Array — the world’s largest offshore wind farm — and the Emirates Skyline — a fantastic new cable car across the River Thames in London are further demonstrations of the Emirates contributing positively to UK society.

We are delighted by this partnership.

During his recent speech on Europe, the Prime Minister outlined how he wants the UK to remain at the heart of the Single Market. London — like the UAE — has benefitted from being the gateway to a wider region and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. The successful negotiations undertaken by the UK government on banking union and the EU budget underscore how we continue to play an influential role in this debate on Europe’s future.

This debate is vital because — as the Prime Minister stated on his recent visit — we are in a global race as the traditional economic order is overturned by fast growing markets. I believe that closer partnership between the UK and UAE will not only help us to keep pace in this global race — but also to sprint ahead of our rivals together.

 

— Roger Gifford is Lord Mayor of the City of London

 

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