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The View from the Chair - Breakfast with Dr. Liam Fox

Sun, December 17, 2017


Just what the Doctor ordered.....

Breakfast with Dr. Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade

In my role as Chairman of the BBG, I was honoured to be invited to the Residence of Her Majesty's Consul General, Paul Fox, at the British Embassy in Dubai yesterday. It was a small group of British business leaders, gathered to have breakfast with Dr. Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade.

My three very clear takeaways from the informal and pretty direct discussions were as follows:

* British business in the UK is starting to seriously look beyond its borders

In this regard, the UAE, and Dubai in particular, remains an attractive proposition for either exporting British businesses, or for world-class service and infrastructure businesses looking to site their global operations in this geographically compelling region. It was universally agreed that the BBG's focus of encouraging British businesses to assist each other #members4members, whilst aligning themselves with the strategy of the Department for International trade (DIT), is on point. This was a great endorsement for the efforts of the Group. Dr. Fox cited examples of other geographical locations - not for public consumption at this time - which are enjoying having British expertise at the centre of their foreign direct investment policies.

* Global positioning of Britain's world class and leading service sector

The very successful and succinct HM Government's 'GREAT' campaign to position UK businesses as leaders in innovation and assistance to overseas direct investment initiatives has plenty of scope for leverage. Dr. Fox referenced a number of HMG/DIT initiatives - promoting joint ventures, consortia working, increased accessibility of UKEF through UK high street banks, greater support to overseas direct investment - all demonstrating an active agenda.

Closer to home, this means additional DIT resource on the ground here in the UAE, and elsewhere, to support British business in being even more competitive - financially, commercially and cohesively. The more closely that we - as members of the BBG - align ourselves with this HMG 'Overseas Development' focus, the better for us all.

* EXPO2020 initiatives for British business

Following our breakfast, Dr.Fox was meeting directly with HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum to hand deliver a letter from the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, confirming the United Kingdom's active participation in what is billed to be the worlds greatest EXPO. He was to tour the EXPO2020 site, and was already clearly impressed with both the scope of Dubai's ambition and the opportunities therein, especially as a platform to promote the UK services industry.

The fact that Dr. Fox was spending this time in the UAE - albeit a fleeting visit - during the Conservative Party Conference back home in Manchester, underscores the importance that HMG places on its trade and political relationships here. Indeed, he clearly expressed his gratitude for the considerable contribution of UK business in Dubai, and was keen to emphasise the importance of frequent bilateral contact and invite business feedback on HMG support.

These three takeaways, for us all, again highlight the importance of collaboration and sharing through learning. The message from HMG is not simply for the few - it is for us all and I hope that my prĂ©cis has shared this adequately. I will share more practical information as and when it comes my way. 

As for the BBG, your committee is firmly on the road to being able to articulate a clear 3 year strategy for all members, the real value proposition for membership, as well as continuing to provide value added event and learning programmes - with a bit of fun thrown in too, I hope....

On the subject of fun, I look forward to seeing you and your families at our 30th anniversary celebrations on the British Embassy lawns on Friday 13th October - tickets for the Great British Day Out are still available here; please do feel free to share with your friends!

Have a great end to the week

John MSV