By Alicia Buller
Exclusive: Bilateral UAE-UK value trade currently totals $17bn across multiple industries - the UAE is targeting trade with the UK to $25bn by 2020
The interiors of the UAE Embassy building in London’s upmarket Knightsbridge are predictably sumptuous and palatial. But HE Sulaiman Almazroui himself, the UAE ambassador to the UK, is remarkably down-to-earth and straight talking.
“Are these just business questions? Oh, that should be easy,” he says, giving the impression that diplomacy can be a tough and nuanced job on the best of days.
Almazroui tells Arabian Business, "The UK will probably seek new friends or new enhance relations after Brexit and we are definitely up for that.”
The diplomat insists relations between the UK and the UK are “strong, historical and ever growing”.
Embassy figures indicate that about 50,000 Emirati citizens visit the UK each year and there are currently around 2,000 UAE nationals studying in the country.
Almazroui adds: ”There is an opportunity for the UAE to grow relations with the UK because Britain will be a lot more free for bilateral relations after Brexit.
“The UAE is definitely equipped for that and we will always provide a hub for UK products to be exported to the Middle East and beyond.”
Currently, bilateral UAE-UK value trade totals $17 billion across multiple industries. The UAE is targeting trade with the UK to $25 billion by 2020.
Almazroui seems pleased with this figure: “It’s the largest in volume between any Arab country and the UK in value, which is huge, considering that the UAE is not the largest Arab country,” he says.
The ambassador points out that the UAE has "one of the best infrastructures in the area and is capable of handling more".
Referring again to Brexit, he says: “We assume that the UK will soon focus more on import and export through the UAE to target the two billion people in the surrounding region such as the Middle East, India, Africa and Pakistan. It’s all fed by Dubai ports and airports … we have the capacity and welcome it.”
Almazroui arrived in his new role in mid-2016 fresh from Brussels where he was head of the UAE mission to the EU, while being his country’s Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg.
In the Belgian capital his most notable achievement was securing visa-free travel for Emiratis throughout the Schengen countries. It was this success that likely held Almazroui in good stead for his appointment as lead messenger for one of the UAE’s longest standing allies – Britain.
“The UK is where the world meets and any diplomat aspires to become affiliated with this great country,” says Almazroui.
The ambassador projects an easy natural charm, shaped by his somewhat eclectic career. Almazroui has not been cloistered only within diplomatic circles; he has held various senior positions in banking, communications and academia across the world.
Almazroui says the life of a life of a diplomat is a busy one. He likes to prepare for his hectic day every morning at 6am by having a short workout in his home gym. But while his daily work life may be busy, it’s often glamorous and involves extensive networking with the likes of the Queen, ministers, academics, businesses and the media.
“Every time I introduce myself as the Emirates ambassador, people think I work for the airline,” he jokes, adding that the airline has worked miracles in "putting the UAE brand on the map".
Almazroui adds that there are ‘lots of challenges’ in diplomacy. So what personal qualities make for a good diplomat?
“You have to be really patient and you have to be able to solve problems. Issues can range from consular issues to shaping a better understanding with governments on various issues, such as the economy.
“The key is knowing how to convey a message so that it can be understood regionally or internationally. How do you convey what your country stands for in the country you are posted to? It’s a great challenge.”
The ambassador adds: “You have to have sound judgment and know what is serious or trivial. This is takes maturity, experience and education. You also need a good understanding of cultures – you have to rise to that level or go down to that level – wherever you are!”
But Almazroui says he wouldn’t give up his job for the world.
“I enjoy networking, you get to know a lot of people and that has a wealth of benefits for any diplomat. You meet interesting people in all areas across media, business, government and academia. There is so much wealth to be acquired in that and that is something to be treasured all your life.”