Webinar – Foreign Direct Investment & Trade Agreements

The ABCC held a webinar titled, Foreign Direct Investment & Trade Agreements, on 1st July 2020. The discussion focused on key legal, institutional and procedural issues seen as vital to help grow business as the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar also discussed the potential for new trade deals between the UK and its foreign trade partners post-Brexit; and the range of incentives that are available for attracting FDI.

Key speakers were His Excellency Mr Ibrahim Mohieldeen, the Ambassador of the League of Arab States to London, and The Lord Karan Bilimoria, CBE DL, President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Rt Hon Baroness Symons, Chairman of the ABCC, opened the proceeding and introduced Mr Abdeslam El-Idrissi, Deputy CEO & Secretary General, ABCC, who highlighted how the Chamber has remained open for business to support exports during the pandemic.

In particular, Mr El-Idrissi said that the Chamber was playing an important role in the processing of export documents for vital equipment and medical goods that were going from the UK to the Arab world.

H E Mr Ibrahim Mohieldeen began his contribution by stating how increased FDI was needed to strengthen the resilience of the Arab economies. The Arab governments had taken swift action to mitigate the worst impact of the pandemic on their people and economies.

Various support measures and financial assistance had been introduced for those sectors most effected such as tourism and the hospitality industry. Youth employment remains the main challenge to be prioritised for all Arab countries, the ambassador said.

Improvements in communications with business and investors would be essential to revive the economies and boost trade and investment going forward.

He stressed that existing reforms began before the onset of the pandemic would need to be maintained and an inclusive recovery programme adopted.

The current moment should be turned into an opportunity to promote the measures needed for the future. We were at a turning point for greater investment and cooperation.

Lord Bilimoria CBE DL, President of the CBI, believed that bilateral investment was essential for global recovery. He stressed the need for Britain and its Arab partners to work together to boost FDI in both directions.

The impact of the current crisis had been unlike any other in terms of its scale and intensity; it has impacted supply and demand, production and consumption; the domestic economy and the global economy, Lord Bilimoria stated.

Most businesses had delayed their investment plans during the lockdown but investment can and will bounce back.

He agreed that youth employment was a joint challenge and urged greater cooperation in the areas of education and training which offer great opportunities.

UK has long been one of the world’s top recipients of FDI but this has too often been London-centred. Lord Bilimoria felt that investment from the Arab world should be widened out to the UK regions. One means of achieving this could be the introduction of free ports which the UK government is considering post-Brexit.

He pledged the CBI’s support to the government for getting a good trade deal with the EU but stressed that business does not want to see a no-deal Brexit. The UK’s first priority is to ensure the continuity of existing trade deals; new trade deals will come later, he continued.

Furthermore, the CBI president stated, government and industry should address the existing barriers to trade including the delays in customs clearance.

In conclusion, the Lord Bilimoria said that British business sees great potential for investment in the whole Arab region and in future, the key events are going to be the Dubai Expo 2021; Qatar World Cup and the Saudi hosting of the G20.

Mr Bandar Reda, ABCC CEO & Secretary General, spoke of the chamber as a focal point for cooperation.  He described how the ABCC can help eliminate the obstacles to business and assist in developing contacts between UK and Arab companies. By getting in touch with the chamber, companies can save much time.

Mr Reda outlined how the ABCC was aiming to host events that focus on each Arab country and would be working in partnership with the embassies on their delivery and the local chambers for each country. The aim was to highlight the opportunities in each market to business and investors.

The webinar concluded with questions from the audience which covered various topics that amplified on what had already been said. There was clear enthusiasm from both sides on doing business together and resuming collaboration as the global economy emerges from the lockdown.