Relationship with Middle East is vital to City

Michael Bear
WITH events unfolding in Egypt and the Middle East continuing to dominate the headlines now might not seem like the best time to be leading a City business delegation to the Gulf.

But the very fact that recent events have had a ripple effect on international markets highlights how the region is an increasingly important player on the global financial stage.

Business thrives in a stable environment and the current uncertainty benefits nobody.

For that reason we hope for a rapid and peaceful resolution to the instability affecting Egypt and other countries in the Middle East.

The City has long been known for being internationally owned, staffed and managed.

A considerable part of this inward investment has come from the Gulf – totalling £1.39bn last year – across sectors as diverse as banking, infrastructure, real estate and sport.

So during our time in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia we will be working hard to remain the Gulf’s partner of choice when it comes to financial and professional services. This is part of a wider Gulf initiative that has brought over 40 ministers – responsible for a wide range of interests – to the region since last May.

In 2009, the Gulf was our seventh-biggest export market at around £15bn worth of goods and services, which is on a par with China and India combined. And, in spite of the economic downturn, UK exports to the region have increased 18 per cent in the last year alone.

The Gulf States are no longer – if they ever were – simply sources of hydrocarbons and investment funds. The flow of capital and expertise today is firmly two-way.

Closer partnership will support the regional goals of economic diversification, growth and infrastructure development.

Infrastructure development is crucial to all the Gulf countries – as of course it is to the UK.

An estimated £1.36 trillion in infrastructure projects is currently planned or underway in the region. The City has considerable experience in mobilising the capital needed for such large-scale development.

From the City’s perspective, we believe that sharing skills and experiences will ensure this longstanding relationship continues to go from strength to strength despite the recent turbulence.

Michael Bear is Lord Mayor of the City of London