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27th and 28th November saw the third meeting of the biannual Kuwait-UK Joint Steering Group in London, chaired by UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Hugh Robertson MP, and the Kuwaiti Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Khaled Al-Jarallah.
Aimed at broadening and deepening a close and historic relationship which dates back over 250 years, the Joint Steering Group was set up during the State Visit of the Kuwaiti Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jabber Al-Sabah in December 2012.
The Group has helped push forward cooperation across a range of topics, and discussed cooperation in the fields of defence, migration, healthcare, education, higher education, trade and investment, and energy.
In each, the partnership between the UK and Kuwait is growing. Discussions on defence between the competent authorities brought a deal for the upgrade of Kuwait’s desert warrior infantry fighting vehicles nearer to completion, and set out a clear goal of strengthening Kuwait-British ties on military equipment and training.
Discussions on migration focussed on improving information exchange on illegal migration, which has strengthened considerably since the Joint Steering Group was initiated. Future reforms to visa systems were also discussed in detail.
On healthcare, a range of British public and private sector representatives spoke about how the UK can support Kuwait’s ambitious plans to revolutionise its own healthcare sector whilst continuing to provide top quality care for the thousands of Kuwaitis who receive private healthcare in the UK each year.
On education, representatives from the British Council and the Ministry of Education discussed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of education to provide UK advice and support to reforms in Kuwait’s education system, including in English language teaching and special needs education. Similarly, representatives from the British Council and the Ministry of Higher Education discussed agreement Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in higher education and research. Both sides hoped to sign these before the next meeting.
On trade, a wide-ranging discussion focussed on how much work Kuwait has done to reduce barriers to market entry to UK companies and investors, further increases to the Kuwait Investment Offices multi-billion pound investment portfolio in the UK, and made steps towards an agreement on UK support for Kuwait’s ambitious plans on transport infrastructure, in the rail, airport and port sectors.
This Joint Steering Group was the first formal discussion on energy cooperation, with the two sides exploring ways of cooperating closely on managing the stability of global energy markets, Kuwaiti involvement in the UK energy sector, and the potential for increased technical cooperation in this field.
At the end of the meeting, Mr Robertson and His Excellency Al-Jarallah signed a formal action plan for the next six months’ work before the next round of talks, and both expressed their happiness with the progress made to date and their shared commitment to push the relationship to new heights, to the mutual benefit of both countries.