Simon Penney, UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, is the guest of Euronews journalist, Jane Witherspoon, in the Interview space.
To begin the conversation that both have in Dubai, the reporter thanks the interviewee for being on the show and alludes to the various functions that the interviewee’s position entails.
“Thank you very much for having me. As you say, I have two roles. One is Trade Commissioner, which gives me a very broad mandate across the Middle East, to support UK trade and investment interests in 12 countries. But I am also Her Majesty’s Consul General in Dubai, in the Northern Emirates, which allows me to focus specifically on the UK’s relationship with the Emirate of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates,” said Simon Penney.
Tell me about that special relationship between the Emirates and the United Kingdomanima a su invitado, Jane Witherspoon.
“Really, we are very fortunate and privileged, because the relationship of the United Kingdom with the United Arab Emirates, dates back to the 19th century, to 1820, in fact, when what is known today as the Emirates, became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. , until the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. That is why we have a relationship of more than a century and a half with the Emirates, which goes back to cultural, human and commercial links.It is really important for our future relationship with this In fact, you may have noticed that last year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visited our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in London, and that visit was reciprocated last month when our Prime Minister visited the United Arab Emirates. States,” says the UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
It is a very varied job, in terms of your day to day, right?asks the reporter.
“Yes. Anyone who has done business here in the Middle East, not just in the Emirates, will know that politics and government are quite intertwined with business. So actually the fact that I play a very focused role in business, combined with a political function, gives me a great advantage, I would say, to be able to engage with our hosts around strategy, business and the evolution of the economic model, both here and throughout the Persian Gulf,” points out the British diplomat.
Why is it important to consolidate trade relations in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and with the UK?the Euronews journalist wants to know.
“The Gulf Cooperation Council is the UK’s third-largest export market globally, outside the European Union. It is second only to the United States and China. This, in many ways, is a very strong foundation on which we are building.” our trading relationship going forward. In fact, it was over £40bn just before the coronavirus pandemic. And it represents, a spectrum of sectors and industries, very important to the UK, but also, and possibly more important, for the economic transformation that is taking place here in the Persian Gulf,” explains Simon Penney.
I suppose that, at the same time, it is more pertinent than ever, following the completion of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Unionsugiere Jane Witherspoon.
“That’s right. It gives us a greater degree of independence and the ability to chart our own future with the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East. In fact, we’re now working on a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council. And, in fact, I have been in Jordan, a country with which we have what we call an Association Agreement, which is an extension or extension of the agreement that Jordan had with the Emirates, which gives us much more freedom to focus on the areas that matter, individually, to our two nations,” says the UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
You mentioned the Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council. What phase are we in? ¿Why is it so important?asks the author of the interview.
“Actually, we consulted all the stakeholders in our future business relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council. It’s something that we started at the end of last year and concluded in January of this year. So, now, we are working with our hosts of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and looking at what that task will look like in order to start negotiations sometime this year,” says Simon Penney.
What do you think the future will look like for British exports to the region and vice versa?asks the reporter.
“Like I say, my competition is the Middle East. It’s not just the United Arab Emirates. It’s not just the Persian Gulf. In fact, I’ve just been in Jordan, where we have what we call an Association Agreement, which was the agreement that the European Union had with Jordan. We have turned that pact into a bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom, and we are studying how to grow a bilateral relationship with Jordan. We have a similar relationship, an agreement with Lebanon, which is also part of my region.” , says the British diplomat.
The Emirates are the UK’s 25th largest trading partner in the world. How have supply chains been affected in the last two years, due to the coronavirus?the Euronews journalist wants to know.
“One thing that the coronavirus brought to light for all countries, all over the world, was how interconnected we are and how dependent on each other, we are, when it comes to essential supplies. Here in the Persian Gulf, supplies The essentials would be food and medicine. But I think it’s fair to say that the Persian Gulf, and the United Arab Emirates in particular, had a remarkable stance in securing supply chains. So what it has done is focus our minds , the UK and all the countries that I deal with, around what supply chains should look like in the future, and part of that is probably reducing reliance on a single source and distributing some of that reliance on a broader range of counterparties. It won’t surprise you that we’re looking hard, with all of our Gulf and Middle Eastern partners, at what those future supply chains might look like, as it relates to our relationships. bilateral relations,” says the UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
You have not always been in His Majesty’s service. Before, he worked in the private sector here in Dubai. How did that transition occur?pregunta Jane Witherspoon.
“Most of my career has been in banking, and I’ve lived here in Dubai for the better part of 13 years. So it’s a big transition, really, to go from a career in banking to the Public Administration. Really, the part of my duties that has the most impact is that of Trade Commissioner, which, in fact, focuses on many of the same areas that I dealt with in banking. It refers, to a large extent, to the relationships, to supporting and financing trade. So, I’ve managed to transfer a lot of those skills. An important area, where we focus, is inward investment in the UK. Much of my work in the banking sector involved involving the Sovereign Wealth Funds, something we do now in my role as Trade Commissioner. You may have seen last year that we signed a £10bn Sovereign Investment Partnership with the Sovereign Wealth Funds of the United Arab Emirates, and that focuses largely on inward investment in the UK, in sectors that are important to the Emirates and to the UK going forward. It is a privilege to have lived and worked here, in the private sector, and now to be Consul General. We have over 100,000 British citizens in the United Arab Emirates, many of whom reside here in Dubai. So it’s an honor and a privilege to think that one of the responsibilities of my role is to look after the British people who live here, and those who visit us as tourists,” said Simon Penney.
It is evident that He has seen how Dubai has changed in the years he has lived here. How do you think it has positioned itself as an economic destination, and as a world business center?asks the reporter.
“I think anyone who has been here can see it with their own eyes. I mean, in the last two decades it has undergone an exceptional transformation. But, that’s not something unique to Dubai or the United Arab Emirates. I mean, just you have to look at Qatar, Saudi Arabia or other countries in the Persian Gulf. There is a major economic transformation taking place, which is going to continue for years and decades. So, it is a great opportunity for us as the United Kingdom. But, above all, for British companies looking for new markets to expand into,” says the British diplomat.
We are here in the British Embassy complex. This place is loaded with history. I guess when it was built in the 60’s there was nothing heresuggests the author of the interview.
“There was hardly any construction. We have some wonderful black and white photographs, of this area, going back, as you say, to the 1950s and 1960s. And really, as far as the eye could see, it was just desert sand. The complex of the British Embassy, in which we are now, was located very, very close to what was the original center of Dubai, the Al Fahidi district.In its day, the authorities wanted the British Embassy to be as close as possible downtown, of what was then Dubai. But if you take that same aerial photograph today, it has of course been gobbled up, as have many of our other embassies, throughout the region, as economic expansion has has taken hold,” says the UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
What hopes do you have for the rest of your term here?wants to know lastly, Jane Witherspoon, before thanking Simon Penney for his presence in the Interview space.
“I would like to say that there are some things that I would really define as success. You have mentioned the Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is something that I have defended and I know that the United Kingdom is very, very interested in consolidating it because it will give UK companies a competitive advantage by operating here. So that would be one of them. Another would be to expand our Sovereign Investment partnerships with the Sovereign Wealth Funds and the Governments of the region, to identify inward investment in the UK. But It’s not just about investing in the UK. It’s about seeing how UK politics can help here. So investment is another really important part. And I would say a third thing is just working with the British companies to identify what we would call ‘barriers to doing business and working with us’, to help engage with our host governments to make it easier to do business,” he concludes. Simon Penney.