Ambassadorial Roundtable – United Arab Emirates

The Chamber was honoured to host the UAE Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Sulaiman Al Mazroui, for a roundtable discussion with British investors and executives from a wide range of industries.

The event, held on the morning of 18th February, attracted senior representatives from financial services, education, transport, legal services, health, security, insurance, real estate, construction, communications and the hotel industry. The number of sectors represented reflected the UK business community’s widespread commitments in the UAE market.

H E Mr Sulaiman Al Mazroui described the success of the UAE in creating a sustainable and diverse economy where over 70% of GDP was derived from sectors other than oil.

The UAE was continuing to build a knowledge based economy and could now boast of having developed an Emirati space programme.

The Ambassador stated that the UAE was the third largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Citizens from over 200 nations had made the UAE their home, including 120 thousand Britons, which reflected its diverse and tolerant culture.

Turning to address relations with the UK, the UAE Ambassador stressed the importance of bilateral trade and, with a nod to the Brexit negotiations, he mentioned that the UK would remain a trusted and valued partner whether the UK was inside or outside the European Union.

A detailed presentation was then delivered by Mr Youssef Hassane, Chief Economic Advisor at the UAE Embassy, who began by referring to the UAE’s strong economic fundamentals. Its growth outlook was expected to strengthen with increased inflows of investment and increased private sector activity. The UAE enjoyed high rankings for its economic competitiveness and efficiency.

In terms of bilateral relations, UK-UAE ties were expanding across a broad spectrum of economic, strategic and cultural activities. A trade value target of £25 billion had been adopted by the two governments to be reached by 2020.

Elaborating on the strengths of bilateral relations, Mr Hassane stated that 6,000 UK firms were now located in the UAE and, in addition, each year the UAE attracted over 1.2 million British visitors.

The UAE was also a major investor in the UK economy and there was particular involvement in UK infrastructure, clean energy, healthcare, real estate, hospitality, innovation and transport.

He urged UK investors to look to the opportunities in the seven strategic priority sectors identified by the UAE as those that would offer the greatest potential for development: namely, renewable energy, transport, healthcare, education, water, technology and space.

The UAE had an innovative economy and was particularly proud of the growing achievements of its space industry, he said. It had also become a knowledge centre in the region for artificial intelligence.

Mr Hassane urged UK companies to look to taking part in the Dubai Expo 2020 which was expected to attract 25 million visitors. He concluded by remarking on the key factors that make the UAE market attractive to investors such as its excellent infrastructure, the new 10-year visa option for investors and the possibility of 100% ownership.

H E Mr Sulaiman Al Mazroui concluded by warmly thanking the ABCC for organising the event and for its ongoing work in promoting closer UAE-UK relations.

Questions raised by delegates during the discussion ranged over the need for more clarity on VAT, the use of the English language and education, the possibility of a UK-GCC free trade deal after Brexit, the impact of UK tax changes on UAE investors, the UAE’s ambitious plans for Smart Cities, and opportunities in the UAE financial services industry with the growth of Islamic finance and fintech.