UK is looking for free trade agreements with GCC partners; Envoy

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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British ambassador to Qatar, Mr. Jonathan Wilks has stated that the UK is reviewing its trade and investment arrangements with GCC partners to see “if there is a possible deal to be made on free trade agreements.”

“The most important thing to say about this is that for the UK, after the EU and China, the GCC is our next biggest market, so as a whole, these six GCC countries are very important to the UK,” Mr. Wilks commented on the effects of Brexit on Qatar-UK trade ties.

Jonathan Wilks
Jonathan Wilks
British Ambassador

“We are hoping this year to complete this review of trade and investment relations and then look whether we can do some free trade agreements between the UK and the GCC. We have an MoU between the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in Qatar and the Ministry of Agriculture in the UK, but of course, business relations are very strong. We know that a lot of Qataris in the private sector are part of building this food security in Qatar. We want our businesses to be directly connected with them within the context of an agreement between the two governments to develop co-operation in this sector.”

Qatari investment in UK real estate sector

The ambassador said that “We have to be careful. The UK has succeeded in its vaccine rollout and we have to make sure that we don’t import any of the variants of concern. So, we’re looking at the data, and as the data improves then we can slowly and carefully make travel easier.”

“This takes time but we know that lots of Qatari investors and property owners want to come to the UK, so the most important thing is to continue with the vaccine rollout and that we are careful with all the measures we know that are necessary, such as social distancing and the wearing of masks. Hopefully, through this year the situation will improve,” Mr. Wilks added.

Qatar-UK trade

Mr. Wilks further noted that the total trade between Qatar and the United Kingdom has increased to $9 billion (£7 billion) in 2020 despite restrictions and difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“eCommerce and fintech are already big areas for co-operation between the UK and Qatar, and that both countries are building on Qatar’s ambitions to become a fintech hub, which is a main sector in the UK. London is one of the main centers, and beyond London, we are already developing centers in major cities,” he concluded.

Related: Spread of trade gains could play key role in COVID-19 recovery; World Bank