Diplomat from Gulf oil producers used their meeting with British officials in London to call for measures to ease curbs on the entry of their citizens into Britain, saying this would boost their trade and investment links.
In a report on Tuesday, the London-based Saudi Arabic language daily Alsharqalawsat said the ambassadors of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) made the call at talks with British foreign ministry officials on Monday.
“British authorities need to remove difficulties and routine procedures for the entry of GCC citizens into the United Kingdom…they should also tear down other barriers like taxes and fees as this will give a strong push to commercial and investment relations between the two sides…in turn, we invite British companies to boost their presence in our countries and compete with other investors in the region,” said Khaled Al Duwaisan, Kuwait’s ambassador to Britain.
His figures showed more than 150,000 British reside in the GCC while over 250,000 Gulf citizens visit the UK annually for business and leisure.
“In the GCC, British citizens are treated as if they are in their own country…this underscores the need for that move by Britain,” he said.
“What we want is for Britain to facilitate visa measures for our citizens, including the period of stay and other routine procedures faced by the GCC nationals.”
UAE’s ambassador in London, Abdul Rahman Al-Mutaiwe, echoed the Kuwait diplomat, when he said visa curbs by Britain are only hampering trade and investment with the GCC’s, one of the UK’s strongest economic partners.
“Such curbs are obstructing the freedom of trade and cultural exchange between the GCC and Britain…there is a need for a joint effort to tackle this problem.”
Figures released in Riyadh last month showed the six GCC countries control more than $208 billion in real estate and other investments in Britain and nearly 45 per cent of the capital is owned by Saudi Arabia.
Investments by Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, are estimated at 60 billion pounds ($94.6 billion) while nearly 72 billion pounds ($113.5 billion) in capital in the United Kingdom is controlled by the remaining GCC members—the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, according to the figures, reported by
Abdul Rahman Zamil, chairman of the Saudi Alzamil industrial giant.
He estimated Britain’s investment in Saudi Arabia at around $17 billion, adding the level is too low compared with the GCC’s investment in the UK and with the strong and long-standing relationship between the two sides.
Speaking at a recent GCC-British show in London, Duwaisan said trade between the GCC and Britain exceeded 15 billion pounds ($23 billion) last year, far higher than the UK’s trade with China and Russia together.