Leveraging opportunities for growth in UK-UAE business ties
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Leveraging opportunities for growth in UK-UAE business ties

Leveraging opportunities for growth in UK-UAE business ties

John Martin St. Valery, chairman of the British Business Group in Dubai, shares his outlook for the year and tells us why it bodes well for British businesses in the emirate

John Martin St. Valery

With the UAE’s economy poised for growth in 2022, what’s your outlook for the year and how do you see the British business community benefitting from it?
With the increased interest from UK-based companies through the British Chamber of Commerce network and those that have found the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates on social media and by referral, we’ve seen an increase from UK companies looking to expand their business interests in Dubai, which is really exciting and evidence of the region’s positioning as a great place to do business and to live.

Like me, there are many British expats living here who will have seen similar surges of “new business blood” entering the market in the past, but this feels quite different. In all the time I have lived and worked here I have not seen such an integrated, responsive and welcoming landscape, which will be so appealing to UK public limited companies, established entrepreneurs and even those just starting out in their careers. Existing Dubai-based business should see this wave and growth as an opportunity to demonstrate the established British business ecosystem in the country.

With Britain and GCC agreeing to expedite their free trade deal, how will that promote the UK’s commercial interests in the UAE?
The free trade agreement (FTA) is to understand and protect what is working well – and there’s a lot that is – and to look for areas of change that can benefit all parties. It’s quite simple: it means there’ll be less obstacles, making it easier to trade and this goes both ways, as the BBG also supports the Department for International Trade’s activity around investment back into the UK – and a growing number of our members are doing just that. We are working closely with our counterparts across the GCC and the British Chamber of Commerce Abu Dhabi to feed into the FTA consultation work.

Any recent initiatives that will contribute to attracting more British businesses to the UAE?
There have been so many progressive and strategic changes announced by the UAE government in the past 12 months alone, along with the UAE’s response to the pandemic which will naturally attract more interest from British businesses. With more British expats – evidenced by our members in property, financial services and education, the demand is there for British products, services and standards now more than ever – we see this reflected in the diverse range of new members in the F&B sector, entertainment and lifestyle.

You were recently made Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Tell us about your experience on being awarded this honour.
It is exactly that – an honour to receive – and it came as a wonderful surprise when I was informed by Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner and Consul General for Dubai on the Embassy grounds in December last year. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone and kept it under wraps until it was publicly announced and published on New Year’s Day. It has come at a time where I’m enjoying the last term of my chairmanship at the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates after six years, and more than 20 years of being a member.

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