British business secretary ‘excited’ by progress of GCC-UK free trade deal talks

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Updated 25 May 2023
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British business secretary ‘excited’ by progress of GCC-UK free trade deal talks

British business secretary ‘excited’ by progress of GCC-UK free trade deal talks

RIYADH: Recently appointed British Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch has highlighted the progress being made in Gulf Cooperation Council-UK free trade agreement negotiations.

The politician made her comments during a visit to Riyadh on Wednesday as part of a five-day tour of GCC member states.

She told Arab News: “We are very excited about the GCC-UK free trade agreement. We think that it could be really groundbreaking and set a precedent for what the GCC does with the rest of the world.”

On the progress of the talks, she said: “It is going well, and we are focused very much on the substance of the deal, and we will continue to move and progress that in order to have a conclusion which will be of mutual benefit to all of the parties.”

Badenoch’s trip also includes meetings in Qatar, and the UAE.

“We’re in the middle of the negotiations. And now that I have been appointed secretary of state for business and trade, I wanted to make sure that I had an all-encompassing visit,” she said.

Her visit was not just focused on trade but also “around business and helping to facilitate the conclusion of that FTA.”

She added: “With every free trade agreement, it’s about both sides looking for the opportunities which they can have in order to improve trade, improve business, and remove market access barriers.”

Badenoch highlighted the complexity of the negotiations and agreement process.

FASTFACTS

Badenoch began her tour in Qatar, where she met with ministers and attended the Qatar Economic Forum before arriving in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

During her visit to the Kingdom, she met with Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

“What is interesting about the GCC free trade agreement is that it’s with six countries, so it’s a lot more complex because what one country wants may be different from what another country wants.

“We have to find an accommodation. We have to find a compromise. And not everything is possible. So, the purpose of coming here is to get a better sense politically of what is achievable,” she said.

Badenoch began her tour in Qatar, where she met with ministers and attended the Qatar Economic Forum before arriving in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

“I’ve had lots of very productive meetings with businesses and ministers here,” she added.

During her visit to the Kingdom, she met with Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

“It was a very, very wonderful meeting. He was so helpful. Very much a driver of a lot of the economic activity taking place in Saudi Arabia and it was a real privilege to have been hosted by him,” she said.

Badenoch also discussed Gulf trade with Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih and pointed out that matters were falling into place in terms of pace, timing, and knowing which issues were on and off the table.

“I’m really pleased with the progress that we’ve made. And it’s a tribute to the British negotiating team and also the GCC negotiating team and the chief negotiators in each of the countries,” she added.

She noted that for reasons of market sensitivity and confidentiality she could not reveal details of the negotiations.

Signing that letter with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is one of our top 10 markets in order to help deliver this agenda, is a big win for the UK.

Kemi Badenoch

British secretary of state for business and trade

During her Saudi visit, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Saudi Arabia and the UK on critical minerals to contribute to the clean energy transition.

Badenoch said: “Signing that letter with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is one of our top 10 markets in order to help deliver this agenda, is a big win for the UK.

“That’s going to be absolutely pivotal for a lot of the work that we’re doing in our transition to clean energy, to net zero. If you look at the supply chain, that’s changing in advanced manufacturing, and critical minerals, and strong supply chains are absolutely essential to deliver that.”

She added that the agreement was inked by Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef. “It was a very good meeting, very brisk. But also, it was just an example of how easy it is to do business in this country and just immediately understanding what the other side needed.”

On Wednesday, the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia hosted a reception at his residence for Saudi businesses investing in the UK and British companies investing and working in the Kingdom.





During her visit to the Kingdom, she met with Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi. Photo/Supplied

“It’s just been an opportunity for me to hear first hand exactly what sort of projects people are working on and their experience of working in Saudi (Arabia). And they have all been great stories,” Badenoch said.

She pointed out the importance of introducing people and building relationships that could impact future collaboration and partnerships.

On Thursday, she was due to hold meetings in the UAE.

“Being here means that I can talk to the businesses who are working here. International businesses from all over the world, not just British ones. What is their experience?

“And where the UK, whether the government or on the business side, can help to facilitate or can collaborate with them with either the Saudi government or with businesses based in Saudi, just to deliver that same goal that both countries have, which is to drive economic growth,” Badenoch added.