The Arab-British Chamber of Commerce’s first ever Arab British Economic Forum (ABEF) opened in London on 27 October 2009.
During the two-day conference distinguished senior executives and decision makers from the UK and around the Arab world came together to discuss the new opportunities for business partnership that are emerging in a range of key sectors in the wake of the global economic crisis.
Topics under discussion at the Forum had been carefully chosen for their potential for future business and cooperation as economic recovery gets under way.
The Forum is one of the most ambitious initiatives undertaken by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce in the more than thirty years of its existence, the ABCC’s Secretary General & CEO Dr Afnan Al-Shuaiby told more than 200 delegates as the event opened at the InterContinental Hotel, in London’s Park Lane.
The Arab economies were now viewed increasingly as a lucrative investment option as governments in the region were investing heavily to upgrade their infrastructure and diversifying away from reliance on oil and gas, Dr Afnan stated.
“British companies with their wide ranging expertise and know-how are well placed to partner with the Arab World in their ambitious endeavours to strengthen and diversify their economies”, Dr Afnan told the gathering.
In his welcoming remarks, ABCC Chairman, Sir Roger Tomkys, stressed the ongoing relevance of Chamber’s motto “friendship through trade” and pointed to the Chamber’s range of activities to help businesses succeed.
His Excellency Khaled Al-Duwaisan, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the UK and Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps at the Court of St James’s, on behalf of the Arab Ambassadors thanked the ABCC for organising what he said, “would surely be a successful Forum for the UK and Arab participants.”
The Ambassador personally thanked Sir Roger and Dr Afnan for their important roles in organising the Forum.
In his keynote address, His Excellency Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, welcomed the opportunity presented by the Forum to address a British audience on the important issues facing the people of the Middle East at the present time.
He paid tribute to the vital work carried out by the ABCC to promote bilateral trade between Britain and the Arab World.
Amr Moussa stated that the Forum gave a chance to focus on a wider agenda than simply economic matters including the cultural issues that often divide nations.
Calling for a just peace in the Middle East, Amr Moussa urged the UK and wider European Union, to recognise that a new window of opportunity had opened up with the arrival of President Obama in the White House. The business community required peace in the region in order to take full advantage of the new trade and investment opportunities that were emerging, he said.
Also speaking at the opening session, UK Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis MP applauded the work of the ABCC and welcomed the platform provided by the Forum to address the great challenges that the world is facing today.
The Minister stressed that in the 21st Century, and especially following last year’s economic crisis, “interdependency was a reality” and “business as usual” was no longer an option.
Echoing the theme of the Forum, which was “meeting the challenges together”, Mr Lewis said that countries had to come together to find global solutions to day’s problems that included building partnerships for prosperity, confronting climate change and ensuring peace and stability in regions like the Middle East.
Sir Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive of UK Trade & Investment, said that although the UK and the Arab World were already strong trading partners, much needed to be done more to reap the full benefits.
Sir Andrew highlighted what the UK had to offer the Arab countries and vice versa: the UK was a world leader in high-tech industries, precision engineering, healthcare, education and professional services.
On day one, the Forum hosted seminars on a wide range of issues such as nurturing innovation, women in the global business and the shape of the future economy. On day two, the Forum will address natural resources, education and training and the world financial markets.
Speakers from the Arab World urged more balanced trade exchanges between both sides and warned against the emergence of protectionism in the global economy.
The Forum highlighted some of the major projects currently being implemented in the Arab countries including the ambitious “carbon neutral” Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.
The event is also offering delegates facilities for face-to-face meetings with some leading decision makers in the increasingly important Arab markets.
The Forum received high level endorsement from UK Trade & Investment, the Arab League, the British Chambers of Commerce, and the General Union of Arab Chambers, the Gulf Cooperation Council and British Expertise. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent a message of support.
The success of the Arab-British Economic Forum fulfilled the expectations of organisers and delegates alike.
Delegates and speakers expressed their hopes that the discussions would be followed through with tangible outcomes leading to improved trade and establishing new partnerships.
© 2000 - 2019 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)