Strengthening Economic Ties: UAE & UK Forge Robust Trade & Foreign Direct Investment Relationship

Wuraola Ogundimu | 19 May 2023 | Middle East perspective

Trade and Foreign direct investment (FDI) play a vital role in fostering economic growth and strengthening international partnerships. Over the years, the UAE and the UK have cultivated a robust Trade & FDI relationship characterized by mutual trust, strategic collaborations, and substantial investments. Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and UAE was GBP 21.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022.

The UK remains one of the UAE’s key trading partners and a significant source of FDI. Total UK exports to UAE amounted to GBP 14.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022, whilst total UK imports from the Emirates reached GBP 7.2 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022.

Currently there are more than 5,000 British companies established and operating in the UAE. As the UK and UAE continue to strength their relationship, it begs the question as to what the key factors are driving the UAE-UK Trade & FDI relationship, the future prospects of this fruitful partnership and why more UK business are setting up in the Emirates.

Political and Economic Stability

Both the UAE and the UK offer stable political environments and robust economic frameworks, providing investors with confidence and security. The UAE’s favourable business climate, coupled with its strategic geographic location as a gateway to regional markets, has attracted numerous British investors seeking to expand their operations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sectoral Synergies

The UAE and the UK possess complementary strengths in various sectors, creating opportunities for strategic partnerships. The UAE’s expertise in sectors including food & drink, construction, energy, infrastructure, aviation, and tourism aligns well with the UK’s strengths in financial services, technology, healthcare, education, and creative industries. Such synergies have led to collaborative ventures and joint investments, fostering innovation and knowledge exchange.

Bilateral Agreements and Initiatives

Both countries have actively pursued bilateral agreements and initiatives to strengthen economic ties and facilitate investment flows. The UAE-UK Joint Economic Committee, established in 2010, continues to serve as a platform for high-level discussions on trade and investment cooperation. Furthermore, initiatives such as the UAE-UK Business Council and the UK-UAE Taskforce on Infrastructure have played a crucial role in fostering business relationships and identifying investment opportunities.

Major Investments and Initiatives

The UAE has emerged as a significant source of FDI in the UK, with Emirati investors contributing to job creation, economic diversification, and technological advancements. Notable investments include Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) acquiring a stake in the UK’s electricity distributor, Western Power Distribution, and Mubadala Investment Company’s investment in British technology companies such as Graphcore and Improbable.

Conversely, the UK has made substantial investments in the UAE, particularly in sectors including real estate, financial services, and infrastructure. British companies, such as BP, Shell, and HSBC, have a significant presence in the UAE and contribute to the country’s economic development.

Future Prospects

The UAE and the UK are committed to further deepening their Trade & FDI relationship. For instance, the signing of the UAE-UK Association Agreement in 2021 has paved the way for enhanced economic cooperation, including investment protection, market access, and collaboration in various sectors. The UAE’s ambitious visions and the UK’s Industrial Strategy provide a strong foundation for future collaborations in areas such as renewable energy, innovation, technology, artificial intelligence, and sustainable infrastructure.

The UAE and the UK’s Trade & FDI relationship continues to flourish, driven by shared interests, political stability, and sectoral synergies. Both countries’ commitment to strengthening economic ties through bilateral initiatives and agreements, underscores their determination to further enhance investment flows and economic cooperation. As the UAE and UK navigate the evolving global landscape, the UAE-UK Trade & FDI relationship is poised to play an increasingly pivotal role in fostering economic growth and facilitating innovation.