UAE ambassador eager for speedy developments in GCC-UK talks

British Trade Secretary in Dubai to hold initial discussions over free-trade agreement

The UAE ambassador to UK Mansoor Abulhoul at the London Embassy.
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The UAE ambassador to the UK has hailed the start of trade talks between the Gulf Co-operation Council and Britain and expressed a desire for them to progress at pace.

Mansoor Abulhoul said there was great hope that gains could be made for a wide range of sectors, from food and drink to renewable energy.

Talks for a comprehensive free-trade agreement between Britain and the GCC began on Wednesday, aimed at boosting their economies and partnerships.

UK Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was in Dubai on Thursday holding initial discussions with the six GCC countries after months of planning.

She wrote in The National that the £10bn UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership announced last year was driving significant investment in a range of vital sectors and "it stands to reason that we build on all these achievements and further deepen our relationship with the GCC".

There is no formal deadline for a deal.

However, Mr Abulhoul told a Dubai Advantage Conference held in London by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce: "We’re very intent, from the UAE perspective in deepening the really important trade and investment ties that we have with the UK. On the FTA, from a UAE perspective, we want these trade talks and discussions to move at pace. The UAE is all about execution and delivery at time and pace."

He stressed the speed at which the UAE had moved during the Covid-19 pandemic to introduce measures to keep the economy thriving and open to investors, such as visa schemes and foreign ownership rules for business.

"The result was to demonstrate the resilience of the economy and show to the world the UAE looks forward to the future with confidence and excitement," he said.

The UAE and UK have long enjoyed a very warm, historic partnership ... we will play an integral role in each other’s future, developing stronger ties."

At the same event, Lord Undy-Lister, a former special envoy to the Gulf and chief strategic adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who co-chairs the UAE-UK Business Council, said it was "great" that the negotiations had started. "It's something we've been pushing for hard," he said. "We're very keen they should get going."

He said it should not be a "big obstacle" to reach agreement on tariffs, but looked forward to building further bilateral relations on issues such as professional qualifications, the ease of doing business and creating roads to market. He said: "You will find us lobbying hard. It is a very exciting time."

Meanwhile, Baroness Symons, the chairman of the chamber of commerce who was minister for the Middle East in Tony Blair's government, said: "I’m thrilled we’ve got the announcement about the negotiations between the UK and GCC. It’s now our job to take those on with as much energy, knowledge and commitment as we can."

Updated: June 23, 2022, 3:40 PM