Kemi Badenoch is to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week in a bid to make progress on the “ambitious” trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The five-day tour will see the Business and Trade Secretary meet her ministerial counterparts in each nation and the new Secretary General of the GCC Jasem Al-Budaiwi.
The UK began negotiations for a free trade deal with the six-country bloc in 2022 and has completed three rounds of talks so far, with the fourth due to take place later this year.
Ahead of her visit, Ms Badenoch said: “We already have a strong trade and investment relationship with the Gulf nations, but I’m determined to strengthen this even further.
“The GCC represents an enormous opportunity for UK firms, whether it’s selling brilliant British food and drink products into new markets or offering new consumers for our flourishing digital trade and renewable energy sectors.
“I know my counterparts are as ambitious for this deal as I am, and I’m ready to match their ambition.”
According to the Government, analysis shows that, in the long run, a deal with the GCC – which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – is expected to increase trade by at least 16% and add at least £1.6 billion a year to the UK economy.
Collectively, the GCC is equivalent to the UK’s seventh largest export market, with their demand for goods and services expected to grow rapidly to almost £1 trillion by 2035 – an increase of more than 75%.
During the visit, Ms Badenoch will also speak to senior business leaders and investors to build on inward investment to the UK.
Green technology firms based across the UK, such as Levidian Nanosystems, Sonihull, Graphene Solutions and G-volution, have expanded their operations to the Gulf as the region diversifies their economy and pivots away from fossil fuels.
John Hartley, chief executive of the climate tech business Levidian Nanosystems, said: “The GCC is an important region for Levidian – the combination of large-scale gas assets which require decarbonisation, heavy industry which can benefit from graphene application and a political will to decarbonise at pace make it an area in which Levidian can have significant impact.”
The Business and Trade Secretary is expected to speak at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday and take part in a series of business engagements throughout the week.