In 2012 Britain welcomed the world. We had the extraordinary success of the Olympics and the pageant and tradition of the Diamond Jubilee. From heads of state and business leaders to athletes and spectators, Britain showed everyone what we can do best.
As prime minister, I am determined to make sure this spirit becomes something that really lasts. I want Britain to strengthen its links with old friends around the world, and build them with new ones as well.
That’s why the government I lead is putting so much effort into our vital relationships with the Gulf states. We have long been good friends and close trading partners. Our deep strategic partnership is well established, through shared ties of history and commerce.
But I know full well that it is not good enough just to look backwards. We have got to redouble our commitment to a relationship that serves us all so well. This government has made this a priority. In 2010 I launched the Gulf Initiative as a clear commitment to elevate UK-Gulf relations and reflect the importance the UK attaches to partnerships with these countries.
The Gulf Initiative is clearly delivering results and our Gulf partners have welcomed our renewed engagement. In less than two years, there have been over 100 high-level visits – to every country and on every issue, from foreign policy to education and health. The first state visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Oman and the UAE in over 30 years set the standard.
Strengthening our relationship further means doing two things in particular. First, I want to encourage businesses from the Gulf to invest and succeed in Britain. I want people to discover how we are changing, what we have to offer and how – in challenging times for much of the world economy – we can make sure everyone benefits. I’m committed to making Britain one of the best places to do business on the planet. It offers direct access to the European single market, the lowest corporation tax of any G8 country and a committed, skilled workforce. That’s why London is not just one of the most dynamic cities anywhere, but a global hub welcoming investment from the Gulf. There is no greater testament to that spirit of endeavour than the stunning Shard building in London, Europe’s tallest building, backed by investment from Qatar. Recent Gulf investment is a clear sign of the confidence of Gulf partners. The UAE is a major investor in the UK; DP World’s investment in the London Gateway is the largest foreign infrastructure investment in the UK.
But there is more we can do. This government will continue to work with the sovereign wealth funds of the Gulf and UK financial institutions to attract investment for approximately £250bn worth of opportunities under the UK’s National Infrastructure Plan.
Second, I want to see British businesses using their skills to win new contracts across the Gulf region. We have so much to offer – from outstanding aerospace firms such as Rolls-Royce to life science companies and medical specialists and, of course, a world-leading finance and business services sector.
The Gulf is one of our key economic partners. In 2011 alone, the UK exported more goods and services to the Gulf than to India, Russia and Mexico combined and bilateral trade has increased by 39% over the last two years to £29.8bn. We want to build on this progress further. Strengthening our relationships with governments in the region and doing all we can to support and promote British business overseas. For example, Minister of State for Trade and Investment Stephen Green leads the Middle East Task Force, the sole purpose of which is to give strategic direction to the government’s efforts to win business in the region.
The Gulf is an exciting place for British business. The region is weathering the international economic storm, and is embarking on ambitious development plans. All of which provide opportunities beyond the established oil and gas sectors – including infrastructure, transport, education, science and innovation.
Our long friendship has withstood the test of time. Now more than ever, I am confident that as our partnership develops we will go from strength to strength.
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