Government ministers from the British Channel Island of Jersey have been no strangers to the UAE in recent years. The chief minister, the assistant chief minister and I have all led official visits over the past few years and I am happy that I am again paying a visit this week. We have also had the opportunity to play host ourselves, most notably last year when representatives of 18 Arab states, including 14 smbassadors, visited Jersey for a summit meeting. This delegation was led by the ambassador to the UAE, Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee.
However, ours is by no means a recent alliance: Jersey and the UAE have enjoyed a successful partnership for many years, based on our core business of financial services. This partnership has now matured into wider cooperation, such as the collaboration between our award-winning wildlife and conservation facilities, the Emirates’ Al Ain Zoo and Jersey’s Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Nonetheless, those Emiratis who know Jersey will probably know us best for our financial services industry. Our reputation as a world-class international finance centre has long formed the basis for much of our external relations activities – indeed, our promotional body, Jersey Finance, has established a successful office in the Emirates.
During the chief minister’s visit last year, a memorandum of understanding was signed between our two regulatory bodies, the Jersey Financial Services Commission and the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority. This has established a valuable framework for mutual assistance and the exchange of regulatory information. Furthermore, discussions on the possible signing of a double taxation agreement between our governments are now under way.
In common with the UAE, Jersey’s government has economic diversification as one of its key aims. The finance sector accounts for approximately 40 per cent of our GDP but we are increasingly establishing ourselves in other global markets, such as the digital sector. Last month, Jersey held its inaugural financial technology conference, which was well attended and featured a range of expert speakers.
Jersey’s status as a stable and secure jurisdiction has also served to attract overseas companies to choose it as a place in which to register. Among these are two leading UAE oil industry companies, Petrofac and Petrofac Emirates.
However, we have also sought to diversify and promote the overseas reach of some of our long-established, traditional industries, such as agriculture. This example is particularly relevant given the recent successful collaboration between Jersey and the UAE in this area. In 2014, Albert Bartlett Ltd, a Jersey-linked company that supplies more than 20 per cent of the UK’s potatoes, formed a joint venture with Abu Dhabi’s Al Dahra Agriculture, one of the Gulf region’s largest agribusinesses.
The key export item in this instance was the Jersey Royal potato which, along with the famous Jersey cow, is among our island’s most well-known products. Another local firm, Jersey Oyster, has also recently commenced exports to the UAE, while other Jersey producers are also now examining the UAE market.
In my capacity as Jersey’s assistant minister for education, I am also convinced that there are fruitful opportunities for Jersey and the UAE to build further links through education.
We plan to explore the potential for UAE students to take up internships in Jersey, not only in the finance industry but also in other rapidly expanding sectors.
Our relationship with the UAE is one of our strongest and most valued, and I know that both of our governments are committed to similar values of economic growth and productivity. I am sure that we will continue to collaborate across a number of new and exciting sectors. At the same time, Jersey will do all it can to ensure that the financial services business that is at the heart of our relationship continues to prosper.
Sir Philip Bailhache is minister of external relations for Jersey