UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi and Lord Davies of Abersoch, the British Minister of Trade, Investment and Small Business, inaugurated the Emirati-British Businessmen Meeting hosted by MoFT in Abu Dhabi last week.
Attended by officials, businessmen and investors from both countries, the meeting was held in line with MoFT initiatives to enhance communications between the business communities of the UAE and the UK and leverage the visit of the British Minister to the Emirates. The commercial delegation of 70 British companies joined discussions on promoting investment opportunities and increasing foreign investments in the Emirates. The gathering also focused on how to boost UAE exports to the UK market.
In her speech, Sheikha Lubna affirmed the UAE’s commitment to strengthening business and economic partnerships with the UK and raising bilateral trade to higher levels by capitalizing on numerous investment opportunities and strong business and economic potentials.
Sheikha Lubna explained that the UAE was able to successfully overcome the global financial crisis and has moved towards positive economic growth. She attributed this success to the policies, procedures and facilities upheld by the country, the diverse and robust national economy, and the increasing role of the non-oil sectors which she revealed contributed more than 66 per cent to the national GDP last year. She said that these key factors have strengthened the world’s confidence in the UAE economy; contributed to an influx of international companies – especially from Britain - to the UAE, and increased their investments across the various sectors of the national economy.
She stated that the UAE records several new foreign investment companies coming into the country on a daily basis. She explained that these organizations seek to leverage the competitive advantages of the local market, achieve their strategic and expansion plans and expand their business and performance. These, she said, are opportunities that are limited within the international markets due to the global economic recession. She noted that the UAE has the economic potential to overcome various challenges and ensure the availability of exclusive opportunities for investors. She also referred to the numerous advantages provided by a local market that is part of a region with around 300 million consumers.
Sheikha Lubna added that the UAE has been making significant progress in the technological, industrial and technical fields, especially in renewable energy and particularly in the use of civilian nuclear energy to provide a clean source of electrical power to meet the needs of future development.
The Minister said that all emirates offer investment opportunities in various sectors, especially in non-oil activities, as part of the government’s economic diversification strategy. She noted that the UAE currently has 26 free zones that allow full ownership of investment projects as well as attractive and competitive investment advantages in line with the government’s policy of economic, trade and investment openness.
She urged British companies to leverage these investment opportunities which she assured can be easily explored and translated into viable projects that can help promote strategic bilateral ties between the UAE and UK and strengthen economic development in both friendly countries. She referred to the presence of more than 1,000 companies and agencies in the UAE, as well as hundreds more operating in domestic free zones across the Emirates.
The UAE official also discussed the importance of looking ahead to promote trade and investment partnerships between the UAE and UK and further broaden the base of goods and services exchanged by the countries. She particularly encouraged greater focus on potential partnerships among small- and medium-sized enterprises.
For his part, Lord Davies emphasized that the UAE is the UK’s top trade partner in the region, whereas the UK is the UAE’s biggest foreign investor.
In his speech, the British Minister revealed that the two countries plan to boost bilateral exchange by 60 per cent to GBP 12 billion by 2015. He explained that despite prevailing global economic conditions and major challenges, UK exports to the UAE reached GBP 3.6 billion in 2009 while UAE imports to the UK were around GBP 1.1 billion, bringing total bilateral trade to GBP 4.7 billion last year.
Lord Davies noted that the huge number and diversity of the British commercial delegation currently visiting the UAE reflected his country’s intention to explore new business and investment partnerships, especially in renewable energy, trade, education, tourism, transport, electricity, and water. He added that the small and medium sized business sector offers a productive cooperative area for the two countries.
The trade and investment meeting was attended by officials from MOFT and other local and federal agencies, managers from Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and a number of UAE and British investors and businessmen from various economic sectors. Edward Anthony Oakden, the British Ambassador to the UAE was also present.
Sheikha Lubna replied to questions raised by the British delegates, which mostly focused on the UAE’s trade and economic infrastructure as well as investment opportunities in various sectors. She then hosted a dinner honouring the British Ministers and their accompanying official delegation.
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