The National | 13 March 2023
UK hails ’trade wins’ with Saudi Arabia and UAE as GCC talks enter third round
by Laura O’Callaghan
The UK has landed a series of “trade wins” before the third round of negotiations with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), including a £6 million ($7.25 million) boost for honey producers and a female-focused mission in the UAE.
As negotiators sat down for talks in Saudi capital Riyadh, Britain’s Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch welcomed the early progress in trade relations with Gulf nations as hopes of a £1.6 billion pact increase.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to remove a trade barrier and open up the kingdom’s market to British honey firms in a move valued at £6 million over five years to UK businesses.
Women entrepreneurs in the UAE are the focus of a UK trade mission to Dubai, which aims to help businesswomen build connections British companies.
The GCC — which comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE — is seeking to capitalise on the UK’s post-Brexit eagerness to strike lucrative trade deals with global partners.
Ms Badenoch painted a positive outlook for negotiations with the GCC, nine months after meetings began. She said such a treaty would support British manufacturers and improve the prospects of the green energy industry.
“I’m very pleased that we’re heading into our third round of negotiations with the GCC,” the government minister and former Conservative Party leadership contender said.
“A free trade deal with the Gulf will strengthen supply chains and grow our food and drink, manufacturing and renewable energy sectors.
“Trade deals like this one open up new opportunities for UK businesses, such as removing even more market access barriers harming UK competitiveness globally, like the one we successfully scrapped preventing UK honey getting into Saudi Arabia.”
Ms Badenoch, widely seen as a rising star among the Tories, was promoted last month in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle. The Prime Minister appointed her to oversee the newly formed Department for Business and Trade, having she had previously managed international trade.
The department said the latest “trade wins” stood to benefit an array of British businesses, including small firms.
Oxfordshire-based Rowse Honey, owned by Valeo Food Group and which represents about 95 per cent of the UK honey market, welcomed the new export market.
“As the UK’s leading packer of honeys sourced from the UK and from around the world, we are always looking at ways to develop our business outside our home markets,” said Ian Ainsworth, managing director of Valeo Foods, said. “We are pleased to have played a part in opening market access for UK honey in Saudi Arabia and look forward to developing further the business relationship between both countries into the future.”
British officials in trade, animal and plant health, and food worked with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority to establish a new system which would allow UK producers to register their intention to export to the kingdom.
Progress has also been made to drive exports to Saudi Arabia for UK education and sports companies.
Representatives of 10 schools and 20 sports firms will meet global investors and government ministries in Riyadh this week to discuss the growing business opportunities that Saudi Arabia has to offer.
Women helping women
In the UAE, there will also be an increase in business links with the UK in a partnership for which more than 30 companies have signed up. Freya Rose London, a shoe and jewellery shop based in the upmarket London district of Kensington, is among those taking part.
More than 30 others are participating, including Amazing Jane Activewear, led by Claire Goodliff, its co-chief executive. The free programme will help women entrepreneurs in the UAE get a head-start by accessing coaching from some of the best in the business.
Freya Rose, founder and chief executive of Kensington shop, said: “I feel it is an amazing alignment to participate in the DBT [Department for Business and Trade] Dubai mission, which focuses on empowering women in business, as I’m particularly looking forward to being part of a mission that celebrates some of the most successful women in retail and being inspired by their stories and visions.”