Arab News, Thursday, Jul 12, 2018 | Shawwal 28, 1439
Brexit seen boosting UK-Saudi Arabia trade ties
Brexit will lead to stronger trade and investment
opportunities between the UK and Saudi Arabia, and attracting listings such as
Saudi Aramco would be among a string of important deals Britain hopes to secure
after it breaks with Europe, according to a leading business connector between
the two countries.
Chris Innes-Hopkins, UK executive director for the Saudi British Joint Business
Council (SBJBC), said it is not a question of the UK choosing whether to have
trade with Europe or the rest of the world — it aims to have both, and Saudi
Arabia is uppermost in its sights.
“Brexit does provide many opportunities for the UK and Saudi Arabia,” he said,
speaking to Arab News after his address at the 12th BMG Economic Forum at the
London Stock Exchange Group on Wednesday.
“I think it also has led to a change in perception on the Saudi side that we are
raising our horizons.
“We are clear in that we are looking to develop our relationship with Saudi
Arabia, and that was highlighted with the forming of the UK-Saudi Arabia
Strategic Partnership Council that was launched following the crown prince’s
visit here earlier this year.”
In March, the UK and Saudi Arabia agreed a goal of £65 billion ($90 billion) of
mutual trade and investment in the coming years during a meeting between the
UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On attracting the mega-float of part of the oil giant Saudi Aramco,
Innes-Hopkins said the London Stock Exchange is a key of member of the SBJBC and
they are “very keen to cooperate” with Saudi Arabia.
“This includes the proposed IPO,” he said. “There are lots of areas where they
and the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) can work together. Obviously,
post-Brexit, we are very keen for the UK to continue to attract investment from
across the board — including from Saudi Arabia which is a very important source
of investment to us. Within that context we are very keen to work with the
Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to attract more Saudi investment into new
sectors in the UK.”
Addressing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, Innes-Hopkins described the
Kingdom’s blueprint for its future as a “win-win” for both countries.
“I think the Saudi Vision 2030 is a turning point,” he said. “It does represent
a realization that there is no alternative to diversify the economy and grow new
sectors because Saudi Arabia can no longer rely on oil revenue. We all realize
the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 are very ambitious but, in the longer-term, there
is no alternative to the vision that has been set out.
“This can provide a win-win situation; there are a lot of new sectors including
education and health care reform, smart cities — and not forgetting
entertainment and tourism — where UK companies can help and get involved to
implement new projects and provide the assistance needed.
“Infrastructure and financial services have traditionally been out bread and
butter but now the opportunities are so much wider. We see that as very positive
development and one in which the UK can play an important role.”
The UK in particular has a strong part to play in some of the expertise and
growing the human capacity needed to implement the reforms set out under the
Saudi Vision 2030.
But Innes-Hopkins said UK companies should be looking to build long-term links
with Saudi Arabia and playing a central role in making its development vision a
reality, rather than just “selling things and going away.”
“What is needed is not such much consultants going in and doing long reports —
that may have been necessary to frame the vision — but what we are looking at
now is implementation,” he said.
“We as a country, and as a business council, see a big opportunity for UK
professional advisers, companies and the British government to provide some of
the expertise that is needed working in partnership with our Saudi colleagues to
implement these reforms.
“Business in Saudi Arabia is now much more about partnerships; it is not just
about British companies trying to sell things and going away — it is about
getting companies who can maintain a long-term presence in Saudi Arabia, who can
share technology, share skills and invest for the long-term and create a win-win
He said an immediate target of the SBJBC is helping build the infrastructure
that will support the grown small and medium sized companies (SMEs) in Saudi
Arabia, which are important to all economies around the world but will
specifically play a major role in the non-oil-reliant Saudi economy.
ELITE, London Stock Exchange Group’s international business support and capital
raising program for high-growth companies, announced earlier this year that it
has partnered with the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority in Saudi Arabia
(Monhsa’at) to support the launch of ELITE in Saudi Arabia.
“I think we do have a good record in the UK of small business creation,” said
Innes-Hopkins. “What we think there is room for cooperation is on things like is
access to finance for SMEs and access to mentoring and the necessary advice to
grow your company. There is definitely room for cooperation and ultimately we
want to bring these businesses — and our countries — together.”