FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (FTA) CAN GIVE A BOOST TO GCC- UK BILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS

The Union of Arab Banks hosted the International Banking Summit “IABS 2017” on 2nd May 2017 at London Hilton, London, UK. The theme of the event is “Finance in an Unpredictable World”. The Senior Staff of various Central Banks across Middle East and Senior Staff of Middle-east Banks were present at the event.

Dr. R. Seetharaman, CEO of Doha Bank participated in the session “BREXIT: The changing economic and financial relationships between the UK and the EU”. He gave insight on UK- EU trade relationships and GCC- EU relationships. He said “44% of UK exports in goods and services went to other countries in the EU in 2016 out of £550 billionof its total exports. 53% of imports into the UK came from other countries in the EU in 2016.The future rules on trade will depend on what kind of agreement the UK reaches with the EU.EU-GCC total trade in goods in 2016 amounted to €138. 6 billion. In 2016, EU exports to the GCC amounted to €100.8 billion. In the meantime, EU imports from the GCC accounted for only €37.8 billion, generating a significant trade surplus for the EU. Qatar has stake in major European companies such as Volkswagen, Porsche and Glencore. Abu Dhabi has invested in industrial services provider Forrestal, and German shipyard companies.The financial services sector will be alert to the developments from Brexit. The Financial services had got regulated after the global financial crisis. The new US leadership is contemplating re- regulation of the financial services industry and it needs to be seen how this can impact the Industry.

Dr. R. Seetharaman highlighted on GCC- UK bilateral relationships. He said “In 2015 bilateral trade between the UK and GCC reached £30 billion. The British government will be keen to expand its trade, commercial and investment ties with the Gulf States and will find willing partners in the region.The road ahead for a free-trade agreement (FTA) seems to be open between both the blocs, particularly as the GCC already has similar agreements with many countries and blocs. The fast-growing Gulf markets are seen as an important outlet for British exports. This gives UK exports a competitive edge and achieving remarkable gains though its imports from the GCC such as petroleum, petrochemical and aluminum products.

Dr. R. Seetharaman gave insight on Qatar- UK relationships. He said “Qatar’s Strategic Trading Partner as UK's total exports to Qatar amounted to 2.6 billion pounds in 2015, representing an increase of 16% from 2014, while Qatar's exports to the United Kingdom have doubled to reach 2.7 billion pounds during the same year. In Oct 2016 Qatargas has signed a five-year liquefied natural gas sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Petronas LNG UK Limited (PLUK). Under the terms of the SPA, Qatargas will deliver LNG to PLUK until Dec. 31, 2023. Qatar has a large portfolio of investments in the UK, covering a wide range of investments such as the Shard skyscraper, the Olympic Village, the Shell Centre, the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, shareholdings in Barclays, Sainsbury’s and BAA, as well as ownership of Harrods departmental store. Qatar Investment Authority committed an additional £5 billion in the UK this year. This will invest in transport, property and digital technology. ”

Dr. R. Seetharaman highlighted on opportunities for UK in Qatar. He said “Many other British companies are also active in Qatar's infrastructure projects, in particular architectural firms, design, project management and engineering consultancy. Transport, construction are two sectors which witness activity this year. Majority of companies in the UK are SMEs so they have a very strong entrepreneurial culture in driving forward because they are the ones who employ people. They can support Qatar to look at various issues where UK have vast experiences.The UK has considerable experience in the area of public private partnerships, which enable the public sector to access the discipline, skills and expertise of the private sector, and for many years has been home to one of the world’s largest and most experienced PPP markets.Qatar is planning to introduce a new law governing the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) as the government looks to ease the strain of funding a pipeline of projects. The UK can show how collaboration with the private sector can lead to innovation in public sector services.”

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