UK business minister to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's business and trade minister Kemi Badenoch will visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week as part of her efforts to reach a trade deal with the six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Trade talks between Britain and the GCC - whose members also include Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman - started last year and there have been three rounds so far.
"The GCC represents an enormous opportunity for UK firms, whether it's selling brilliant British food and drink products into new markets or offering new consumers for our flourishing digital trade and renewable energy sectors," Badenoch said before her visit.
Badenoch will address the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday as part of a five-day trip during which she will also meet the GCC secretary-general Jasem al-Budaiwi and ministers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Britain exported 36 billion pounds ($45 billion) of services and goods last year to the GCC - whose members also include Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman - and total trade between Britain and GCC nations was 61.3 billion pounds, making the bloc Britain's seventh-largest trade partner, according to government figures.
The ability to strike trade deals independently was cited by supporters of Britain's 2016 decision to leave the European Union as a key benefit of Brexit.
Next month a new trade deal will come into force between Britain, Australia and New Zealand, which Britain's government says will boost the economy by 800 million pounds a year.
However, most economists predict that the disruption to much bigger trade flows between Britain and the EU will significantly outweigh gains from closer partnerships with more geographically distant trade partners.
Britain exported 340 billion pounds of goods and services to the EU last year, accounting for 42% of total exports.
Goods exports to the EU have fallen by about 7% in inflation-adjusted terms since 2019, the last year Britain was in the EU's single market, while goods exports with the rest of the world have fallen by about 10%.
($1 = 0.7923 pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Hugh Lawson)