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Thu 3 Jan 2019 08:47 AM

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UK to boost assistance for Gulf 'vision' strategies, says Middle East Trade Commissioner

Her Majesty's Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for the region says that the UK can share its expertise in 'smart city' technologies, fintech, clean energy and AI

UK to boost assistance for Gulf 'vision' strategies, says Middle East Trade Commissioner
Simon Penney said “in that way, [the UK can be] a lot more of a strategic partner to the region, as opposed to just selling goods and services, which is what we’ve done traditionally.”

Seeking to expand its trade relationship with the countries of the GCC, the British government plans to do more to offer its technological expertise to countries in the midst of national transformation strategies, according to Simon Penney, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Speaking to Arabian Business in a recent interview, Penney said that the UK hopes to be more active outside of “traditional” sectors in which UK firms have historically been heavily involved in the region, such as aerospace, infrastructure design and construction and the food and beverage sector.

“These are all sectors that we, as the government, have provided support to sellers,” he said.

“Where we want to be much more involved as a government going forward…is in the GCC’s various vision strategies and transformation agendas. Where we haven’t been as involved as we would like to be, at a government level, is working with host governments to realise those.”

Among the areas in which the UK would like to be more active in the region, Penney said, are artificial intelligence, fintech, education, healthcare, clean energy and technologies related to the infrastructure needed for ‘smart cities’.

“The UK excels in almost all those areas, and in fact the UK through its own industrial strategy has faced many of the same challenges that the region faces,” he noted.

“The UK has said that we are going to invest significantly in research and development, but we’d also like to share the UK’s work in those areas.”

Penney added that “in that way, [the UK can be] a lot more of a strategic partner to the region, as opposed to just selling goods and services, which is what we’ve done traditionally.”

“In doing that, you elevate the role of the UK’s government as a partner, which is something we’re very keen to do.”

According to British government statistics, the Gulf region accounts for £40 billion ($50.83 billion) of the UK’s £45 billion ($57.19 billion) worth of trade with the Middle East. Of this, trade with the UAE accounts for £17.5 billion ($22.24 billion).

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia accounts for approximately £9 billion ($11.35 billion).