Lord Howell of Guildford has made a rallying call for increased trade with the Gulf, saying that our country’s prosperity and security depends on it.
Addressing around 130 influential political and business leaders from the Gulf and the City of London, he said: “Britain’s relationship with the Gulf, so important historically, and so important now, will remain absolutely key to our country’s prosperity and security.
"It is an evolving relationship that has changed over time and will continue to change as the region develops and as global energy trends shift."
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave the keynote speech at ‘GCC and the City’, organised by MEED Events and the Middle East Association, co-sponsored by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London last week.
At London’s premier financial services summit for investment opportunities in the Gulf, Lord Howell highlighted the region’s growing international influence and its prosperity, with a combined GDP of around $1.4 trillion and plans to invest $2 trillion in infrastructure alone over the next decade.
The relationship is not a one-way street, he noted, with inward investment from the Gulf totalling around $2.25bn last year, and further Gulf investment sought in the UK’s £250bn National Infrastructure Plan.
He commented on the scope for strengthening links in areas ranging from education to security and cultural co-operation.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman David Wootton, commented on the "vast appetite for business with Britain in the Arab world, where much the best way is for business and government to act together, not separately."
Speaking of his recent visit to the Gulf he said: "The private sector could do a lot more and win contracts right along the supply chain, not least in our expertise in public private partnerships."
He highlighted opportunities in the region ranging from the Boubiyan Island development and metro system upgrade in Kuwait, to Saudi Arabia’s plans for 500,000 new homes.
"The goodwill and the opportunities are there – it is for us to take them. Because if we do not, others will," he concluded.
Other speakers included The Rt Hon Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, Chairman of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce; Dr Ranald Spiers, Director General, Middle East Association; and senior representatives from the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), DIFC Courts, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), Al Rajhi Bank & Investment Company, Gulf Bank, Moody’s, Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), Ashurst, Stratton Street Capital LLP, SHUAA Capital PSC, HSBC MENA, Barclays Natural Resource Investments and Oxford Business Group.
Topics discussed in presentations and lively panel sessions included the Eurozone crisis and how this has impacted liquidity in the global markets; meeting the needs and infrastructure demands of the GCC; the broadening of the region’s capital markets; project finance opportunities and trends in alternative sources of project finance; the growing use of bonds and sukuks in the GCC region; and the development of asset management.