The UAE and UK’s trade bond will only strengthen post Brexit, a UK trade minister said in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, where the UK had a large pavilion, Baroness Rona Fairhead CBE, UK Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the Department for International Trade, said the size of the stall showed “how important our presence in the UAE is for us".
Some 50 companies from across the UK took part in Adipec this year in what Ms Fairhead said was indication of the strength of the UK and UAE’s partnership.
And she said Brexit would only bring the UAE and UK closer together. Ms Fairhead said the UAE and UK are currently focusing on the same platforms, such as artificial intelligence and big data, giving the countries greater scope to work together.
"We are both moving towards cleaner energy. And that’s why the potential is huge for us to grow our business regardless of whatever the outcome of Brexit is. There is a strong desire in the UK to look outside more to markets that we have not tapped before," she told state news agency Wam.
"The UAE is the fifth largest trading partner for the UK outside Europe, coming after the US, Japan, China and Hong Kong, and bilateral trade is now growing in double digits. In terms of investment, we are the biggest foreign direct investor today in the UAE. And I believe it has to go both ways so it becomes good for you and good for us.
According to the minister the UAE-UK trade amounted to £17.5bn (Dh83.22bn) in 2017. UK exports stood at £11.1bn while UAE exports to the UK reached £7.4 bn in 2017.
The UK government seeks to increase the trade exchange between the two countries to around £25bn over the coming period. There are 6,000 UK businesses, with direct trade relations with the UAE out of a total of 10,000 in the GCC region.
"If we look at the way UAE is moving, it shows that you have been very significantly supported by oil and gas,” said Ms Fairhead.
“But now you are diversifying and you want to grow much more in education, life sciences and you want to use new technologies to make the existing oil and gas wealth more efficient, utilising AI, machine learning, looking at cleaning forms of energy and different forms of mobility, including autonomous vehicles.”
The minister's comments came a day after UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt met with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. His meeting was believed to be part of efforts for Britain to position itself post-Brexit and strengthen international trade.