Press release

Business Secretary beats the drum for UK business in the UAE

Vince Cable embarks on his first government trip to the UAE to boost trade with the region and encourage more inward investment into the UK.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Business Secretary Vince Cable today (19 January 2014) embarks on his first trip as Business Secretary to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to boost trade with the region and encourage more inward investment into the UK.

The 2-day trip, to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, forms part of efforts to meet UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) target of increasing bilateral trade with the UAE in goods and services to £12 billion by 2015. Current trade and investment levels are on track to meet those targets, reaching £10 billion in 2012.

On the first day of his trip Vince Cable will encourage businesses in the UAE to invest in the UK by launching a new UKTI Gulf Investment team, sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The taskforce will be headed by accountants’ firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and will find 100 new investment opportunities which will lead to 15 concrete investment projects from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE by the end of March 2015.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

Growth remains our country’s top priority. Encouraging firms to export more to emerging economies has formed a key part of the government’s industrial strategy - helping us stay ahead of the competition in key sectors where we are global leaders.

UK exports of goods to the United Arab Emirates were up 11% until September last year, generating over £6 billion - a major success story for our commercial partnership.

The UAE’s long-term prospects remain strong and I am looking forward to meeting with businesses and key decision makers to take forward British interests in my first visit to the country.

The creation of the UKTI Gulf Investment Team follows the development of 2 British Business Centres in the UAE (Dubai, due to open this March, and Abu Dhabi, due to open this October). They will include business support hubs which will give advice, IT support and office space to businesses looking to set up in the UAE. This will help British companies who are looking to bid for some of the £1.2 billion of business up for grabs a competitive edge to win and deliver the site of the upcoming world fair ‘Expo 2020’ in Dubai.

Dr Cable will also meet Gloucestershire-based laundry business, Paragon, as they prepare to launch a new facility in Mussafah in Abu Dhabi, creating initially 120 jobs but rising to over 300 and with over £12 million investment.

Paragon, which operates as NewGen in the UAE, will operate the facility, which will open in February on behalf of the local owner. NewGen already operates commercial laundries in Dubai and Qatar with other planned openings within the Middle East over the next 2 years. The company was helped to set up in Dubai by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and UKTI in 2009. It has been a real success story for the Cheltenham based business which has more than 100 years trading experience in the UK and is led by Joint Managing Directors, Robert and David Stevens.

Steve Connell, NewGen’s Business Development Director, said:

We pride ourselves on our commitment to ensuring our provision of trusted laundry services in the Middle East mirrors our success in the UK within the Paragon Family of Companies – delivering energy efficiency, cost-savings and unbeatable quality.

We’re developing interest from across the region, including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Manila, so it’s a very exciting time for us to launch our latest laundry in this fast growing area.

In Dubai Dr Cable will also meet with some of the 170 UK businesses exhibiting at the international fire and security show Intersec and speak to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, about High Value Opportunities for UK business in the aerospace sector.

In Abu Dhabi he will also attend the World Future Energy Summit where he will promote UK interests in oil and technologies, and take part in a global leaders panel discussion on ‘the business of clean energy’.

A survey of Middle Eastern perceptions of trading with the UK is being launched to coincide with the trip. It found key strengths include political stability, the banking and financial system, stable and effective regulation and the education system.

Business representatives from the Middle East also ranked the UK fourth best for investment and saw it as a key destination for accessing the rest of Europe, but high costs and taxes coupled with low growth were seen as particular barriers.

Notes to Editors:

1. UAE:

  • this is Vince Cable’s first ministerial visit to UAE. It follows the Prime Minister in November 2012 and former Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green in September 2013
  • the UAE is the UK’s largest civil export market in the Middle East, with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching £10.6 billion for 2012. This is an increase of 9.3% on 2011
  • for January to September 2013 export of goods to the UAE was £6,235,244,116, compared to £5,259,894,262 for the same period of 2012. This is an increase of 11%
  • in the first half of 2013 exports grew 9% (compared to the same period in 2012) and reached £2,843 million. Imports grew considerably by 59% to £1,427 million for the same period
  • in 2012 UK exports to the UAE amounted to £5,101 million and in the first half of 2013 the UAE emerged as our 12th biggest export partner
  • UKTI aims to increase bilateral trade in goods and services to £12 billion by 2015 (from £7.5 billion in 2009)
  • major UK companies with investments in UAE include BP, Shell, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, Mott McDonald, SERCO, Standard Chartered, HSBC and RBS
  • key export opportunities exist for UK companies in airports, aerospace, railway, metro, infrastructure projects and professional services
  • there are 3 High Value Opportunities (HVOs) for UK businesses: airports development, the UAE rail development programme and the Saadiyat Island development to provide leisure, tourism and civic and cultural facilities for 145,000 people.
  • key investment opportunities into the UK include innovation, regeneration, green technology and setting up European headquarters.

2. Expo 2020:

  • not only will Dubai Expo 2020 be the first to be held in the Middle East, it will also be the closest the Expo has ever been to Africa and South Asia, truly bringing to life the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’
  • there really could not be a better location, which is why the British government has been fully behind the Dubai bid
  • the UK has a proud heritage in holding international events, with ‘The Great Exhibition’ – the precursor to the Expo – taking place in London’s Hyde Park in 1851, up to the present day with the tremendous success of London 2012
  • UK expertise in delivering such events is held in high regard globally, and given our close and historic links with the UAE, British businesses stand in good stead to compete for at least £1.2 billion (AED7.3 billion) of business planning, designing and delivering the Dubai Expo 2020 site, with UK firm Arup already closely involved in the development of the plan for the bid.

3.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

4.UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the government department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business. UKTI offers expertise and contacts through its extensive network of specialists in the UK, and in British embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. We provide companies with the tools they require to be competitive on the world stage. For more information on UKTI, visit or visit the online newsroom at

Published 19 January 2014