The UK government is advertising for a communications chief for the country's prospective free trade deal with the Gulf Co-operation Council, raising speculation an agreement is close to being reached.
The Department for Business and Trade published an advert on LinkedIn late on Thursday, inviting applicants to apply for the position of UK – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement: Head of Communications, Engagement and Delivery.
It comes weeks after the UAE's ambassador to the UK said talks were “progressing well” on a major free trade agreement between the UK and GCC countries.
Mansoor Abulhoul said he was “encouraged by what can be achieved” through a GCC-wide agreement in an interview with Bloomberg TV last month.
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.
A UK government analysis found that a free-trade agreement between the UK and the GCC would be expected to increase trade by more than 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,” said Mr Abulhoul.
“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.
Trade between the UAE and UK is currently at an “all time high,” bolstered by the launch of the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership in March 2021, said the ambassador.
“To date, we have delivered over £10 billion 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 such as London, including in green finance, as Cop28 approaches.
According to the job description for the new UK role, it is an opportunity to work in a “fast-paced role supporting live negotiations”.
It adds: “The post holder will be responsible for shaping the external and cross-Whitehall communications and engagement strategy to strengthen the UK’s position in the negotiating room; building Whitehall and public support for a final agreement; and preparing and project managing a plan for negotiations.
“The individual will also play a significant leadership role in leading the negotiation team, working with the chief and deputy chief negotiator to build an inclusive and supportive team culture which places personal development, diversity, and well-being at the heart of HMG’s negotiation work.”
The role offers a salary of £62,555, plus a £16,889 contribution by the Department for Business and Trade towards the Civil Service Defined Benefit Pension scheme.