GCC trade deal with UK 'will open door for collaboration on cyber security'

Pact projected to add up to £3 billion a year to British economy

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Britain is in a prime position to help members of the Gulf Co-operation Council digitalise their economies and build robust cyber security systems, an expert in emerging technology has said.

Mohammed Soliman, of the US-based Middle East Institute, said the UK had “a lot of high-value tech that the Gulf would want to be in its own ecosystem”.

Giving evidence to the UK Parliament’s international trade committee inquiry, he said under a trade deal the UK could help GCC states build strong defences against cyber attacks.

“The reputation the UK has in the Gulf is it’s a tech and cyber superpower, a country that’s very, very capable, an innovative economy,” he said. “And they have a lot of high-value tech that the Gulf would want integrated into its own tech ecosystem.

“The Gulf is moving from low-value tech into high tech.

“It means they need to develop a robust cyber security ecosystem to defend their own systems because of state and non-state actors.”

Trade talks between the UK and the GCC, made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are continuing after negotiations officially started in June.

The UK government projects a free trade deal would add at least £1.6 billion ($1.86bn) a year to the domestic economy. It also estimates a pact would contribute an additional £600 million to British workers’ annual wages.

But projections put forward by other figures have valued the potential benefits at much as £3bn.

Mr Soliman said GCC members would also be looking to the UK for possible joint ventures on artificial intelligence and in other areas.

He said Gulf nations would be interested in more than merely buying technology from Britain.

“I think the UK fits perfectly within that framework,” he said. “Joint ventures building human talent in the Gulf, making sure the Gulf economies are developing [and] not just selling stuff, not just selling technology.”

Updated: November 16, 2022, 2:41 PM