Government officials, company chief executives, thought leaders and decision makers from across the UK and the Arab world will gather in London on Monday for the third Arab-British Economic Summit.
The influential leaders attending include the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Dominic Johnson, UK Minister of State in the Department for Business and Trade, Jasem Albudaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Co-operation Council and Oliver Christian, the UK’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan, and Consul General to Dubai.
“I think it is a really good forum for the full breath of the Middle East and North Africa to come together and showcase it's economic potential,” Simon Penney, head of the Middle East at Gemcorp Capital and a former trade commissioner based in Dubai, told The National.
Trade between the UK and Arab nations has never been more important as Britain continues to find its way in the world outside the umbrella of the EU.
The trade and business relationships that the UK has with the Arab world are extremely important to the British economy and, according to figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics, growing at a strong pace.
Total trade in goods and services, including all exports and imports, between the UK and UAE was £25.5 billion in the 12 months to the end of the second quarter this year, an increase of 47.3 per cent or £8.2 billion in the same period in 2022.
That meant the UAE was the UK's 19th largest trading partner and during the period accounted for 1.4 per cent of total UK trade.
Over the same period, total trade between the UK and Saudi Arabia grew 32.8 per cent, making the kingdom the UK's 24th largest trading partner and accounting for 0.9 per cent of total British trade.
The third Arab-British Economic Summit packed agenda includes sessions on the proposed free-trade agreement between the UK and the GCC and how artificial intelligence can enhance trade, as well as discussions on how Arab-British co-operation can be extended further within banking and finance.
Mr Penney, who used to be the UK's trade commissioner to the Middle East and Pakistan, certainly thinks that the UK-GCC free-trade agreement will happen, but cautioned that “these things takes time.”
“We've gone through a series of negotiating rounds, all which have been positively and constructively engaged,” he said.
“Like all these things, the further you get through the rounds, the closer you get to the areas of greater negotiating sensitivity.”