UK may negotiate Cepa, other trade agreements with UAE


Picture used for illustrative purpose.

A senior official of the UAE-UK Business Council has said that British government could look at signing other agreements with the UAE like Cepa, a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, in addition to free trade agreement with the GCC.

“There is nothing to stop the UK and the UAE talking bilaterally about doing additional agreements,” Bradley Jones, Executive Director of the Joint Secretariat of the UAE – UK Business Council, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM), in a virtual interview from London.

“Cepa is a bit more wider in scope than a free trade agreement; it covers a lot more issues,” he added.

For example, the UAE has signed Cepa with India, the UK could be a real beneficiary of that. “If a British manufacturer makes a product 60 percent complete in the UK and 40 percent in Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) or any other freezones in the UAE and exports it to India, then he will get all the benefits of Cepa.”

“I think the UK could look at negotiating other agreements with the UAE,” he went on to say.

The UAE-UK trade and investment relationship has gone from strength to strength in recent years, from Dhs60 billion in 2014 to Dhs 92 bilion in 2020. Brad thinks, “this year the trade will go up again significantly and we would be back to pre-COVID-level of about £18 billion.

“We are hoping to go up to £25 billion within a couple of years,” he added.

The UAE-UK Business Council is a thought leadership forum, co-chaired by Lord Udny-Lister from the UK and Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State, from the UAE.

“We bring business leaders, academics and entrepreneurs together to address real issues, to identify barrier to doing business between the UK and the UAE, regulatory barriers for example, and to identify new and emerging opportunities which we have not yet exploited,” he said, adding that the council adds value to whatever is happening at the government level.

Bradley Jones described the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership (UAE-UK SIP) as “quite unique initiative”.

The UAE has committed £10 billion via the UAE-UK SIP, overseen by the OfI and Mubadala, following an agreement between the UK Office for Investment (OfI) and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company last September.

“They are investing in cutting edge innovative projects which have high growth potentials. They can also do the knowledge transfer back to the UAE,” he pointed out.

Brad highlighted that the Council is working on cooperation in energy transition and sectors where there are opportunities like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Financial technology (FinTech), advance manufacturing, education, life sciences and Agricultural technology (Agritech).

The Council is hosting a Summit on coming Monday in Aberdeen Scotland, aimed at identifying opportunities for collaboration in the energy transition sector between the two countries, he added.

He also spoke about the council’s activities on decarbonisation of energy, infrastructure, and environment, in the run-up to COP28 in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE and the UK can partner to work together on global issues, like climate change, global healthcare, and educational issues, according to Brad.

“For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, there was a lot of collaboration between the UAE and the UK on getting vaccines out to other countries, distributing it in a fairway,” he said.

He explained that the role of the Council is to educate British companies about the UAE strength as a transshipment hub, “if you are a British company and your main market is South East Asia or Africa, you need to understand how the UAE can help you overcome disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There are a lot of collaboration opportunities in the UAE’s ‘Project of the 50’ programme, especially the Etihad Railway project, which according to Brad is “a game changer, in terms of freight transportation as well as the passenger rail network and it is more environmentally friendly.”

The UAE and the UK can benefit from their expertise in the Space filed. “The UK has a very strong space industry, and most of our companies are based in Scotland with lots of knowledge and expertise there. There are collaboration opportunities for companies specialised in dealing with space junk orbiting the earth,” he noted.

Brad said that Nafis is very important initiative to upscale Emiratis so they can succeed in the private sector. “It will help us explain that the UAE is the nation of entrepreneurs of makers and business leaders.”

The ‘Projects of the 50’ is a series of developmental and economic projects comprising ‘Projects of the 50’; the second set of ‘Projects of the 50’ – NAFIS; the UAE Railway Programme and Emirati interplanetary mission 2028.

UK Crown Dependencies, like Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man “offer services for the private wealth management, trust funds, wealth planning.. They are small islands but have a lot of expertise,” said Bradley, who served as Senior External Relations Officer for the Government of Jersey.

“They are international financial centres, very well governed, very well regulated, and always score very high globally as the top international finance centre. Moreover, they have access to the city of London, and financial markets of the UK, European Union and the USA. They have a long history of engagement with the UAE because of the strength their expertise has.



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