Post-Brexit trade agreements could take years to iron out - UAE economy minister

Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, said that the UK enjoys strong trading relations with GCC countries and is looking forward to having a free trade agreement with the bloc in the right time.
Tuesday 12/02/2019
Christine Lagarde (5-R), Managing Director and Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund, Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (6-R), and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (7-R) attend the World Government Summit in Dubai. (DPA)
Christine Lagarde (5-R), Managing Director and Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund, Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (6-R), and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (7-R) attend the World Government Summit in Dubai. (DPA)

Britain has reached out to the United Arab Emirates and other countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on possible trade agreement after Britain leaves the European Union (EU), the UAE economy minister has said.

Trade agreements of this nature can take years to negotiate, Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri said on a panel at the World Government Summit in Dubai but did not elaborate further.

Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, said that the UK enjoys strong trading relations with GCC countries and is looking forward to having a free trade agreement with the bloc in the right time.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but it has yet to find an agreement acceptable to both Brussels and UK lawmakers, raising the prospect of a disorderly exit that could damage the world’s fifth-largest economy.

The GCC also includes Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.

Fox underlined the central importance the UK is paying to its relations with the UAE in particular and the GCC region in general, particularly after Brexit, refuting all claims that the Brexit may have a negative impact on the investment environment in Britain.

"Notwithstanding the political issues surrounding Brexit, last year we have a 20 per cent increase in FDI only behind China and US and ahead of any other EU country. This is because our fundamentals are very strong, and we have the highest level of employment we have ever had. There is a lot of confidence in the UK economy and we are going to continue to find more partners around the world," the minister said.

In 2017, trade between the UAE and UK totalled 17.5 billion British pounds ($22.7 billion), up 12.3 per cent from 2016, according to official figures. By 2020, the UK government wants that number to increase to about 25 billion pounds.

Fox noted that UAE is a key partner for the UK. "We need to have a deeper strategic relationship. It should not only be about selling and buying but about being partners.

"We are looking forward to addressing the common problems and having collective solutions. We are looking forward to having effective partnerships in areas of InfoTech, AI and life sciences as well as making use of UK expertise in education, skills and vocational training."

The World Government Summit is a global platform dedicated to shaping the future of governments worldwide. The Annual Gathering of the Summit is held in February in Dubai, hosts over 4000 participants and invites world leaders, international organizations’ representatives, thinkers, and experts from over 150 countries.