UAE envoy to UK says talks on GCC-wide free trade deal 'progressing well'

Mansoor Abulhoul, UAE ambassador to the UK, encouraged by the prospect of closer trading ties

Mansoor Abulhoul, UAE ambassador to the UK, welcomed efforts to bolster ties through a GCC-wide trade agreement. Photo: Bloomberg
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The UAE's ambassador to the UK said talks are "progressing well" on a major free trade agreement between the European nation and Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Mansoor Abulhoul said he was "encouraged by what can be achieved" through a GCC-wide agreement, in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

A fourth round of talks were held in London in July, with UK officials having previously said they were eager to get the deal over the line.

UK government analysis has found that a free-trade agreement between the UK and the GCC would be expected to increase trade by at least 16 per cent and add at least £1.6 billion ($1.98 billion) a year to the UK economy.

“The free trade agreement negotiations are progressing well,” Mansoor Abulhoul said.

“I don’t want to come out with any big statements now. But I am really sort of encouraged by what can be achieved by deepening our trade links with the UK.”

The GCC countries - The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar - together represent the UK's seventh largest export market and total trade was worth £61.3 billion in 2022.

UAE-UK trade on the rise

Mr Abulhoul said trade between the UAE and UK is at an “all time high,” bolstered by the launch of the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership in March 2021.

“To date, we have delivered over 10 billion pounds across key sectors in the UK economy from energy transition to infrastructure, technology to life sciences,” said Mr Abulhoul.

He said there are more opportunities as the UAE is keen on boosting its relations with global financial centres like London, including in green finance, as Cop28 approaches.

“I think there's huge scope there,” he said, adding that British companies will also have huge opportunities to tap into a wider market and fit on new emerging sectors like Fintech.

Speaking about the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor announced during the recently held G20 summit in India, and balancing relations between the US and China, Mr Abulhoul said it is about building prosperity and bridges.

“For this infrastructure corridor, it will boost trade, But, this doesn't come at the expense of our very matured relationships with the US and Europe, where we have deep security and investment ties.”

Inclusive Cop 28

As the UAE prepares to host the Cop 28 from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai, the envoy said the oil and gas sector should have a place on the table for climate negotiations.

He said the climate summit should be inclusive and its success will depend on a “collaborative effort” of many countries and parties coming together.

“When we talk about inclusive, this is about bringing everyone together, including the oil and gas sector, including doubling down on renewables.

“I think we can only build the energy systems of the future with the oil and gas sector with their investment.”

He said the UAE is very “clear sighted” about the phasing down of carbon emissions, decarbonisation of the oil and gas sector.

“When you look at our own oil and gas sector, we have done that. There is proof in that through clean energy from the Barakah nuclear power stations,” he said.

Updated: September 26, 2023, 12:54 PM