UAE-UK Islamic Finance Partnership; Visit of Baroness Warsi – September 2013
British Embassy Dubai
The UAE’s Government and business communities warmly welcomed Senior FCO Minister of State Baroness Warsi during her two day trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Minister’s message was heard loud and clear. Synergies between London and Dubai as hubs for Islamic Finance were identified, and the WIEF and British Business Pavilions were promoted to individuals and through wide media coverage. The Minister met with senior figures in the UAE and the British business communities, visited Abu Dhabi’s new financial centre, and met with senior female business leaders. Baroness Warsi also spoke at Maritime Piracy conference covering progress made in Somalia since the London Conference and discussed regional and women’s issues with the UAE overseas development Minister.
Islamic (and other) Financial Services
Baroness Warsi gave a keynote speech to over 50 Islamic Finance leaders based in the UAE promoting the UK’s Islamic Finance capabilities, the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) and the associated British Business Pavilions (BBP). The Vice Chairman of Dubai Chambers of Commerce (a platinum sponsor of the WIEF), and a leading UK legal practice specialising in Islamic finance, highlighted the strong business relationship between the UAE and the UK, opportunities for collaboration between London and Dubai, and Sharia compliant investment opportunities in the UK. Discussions at the event suggested opportunities for the UK to develop an Islamic Finance commodity market.
Dubai’s Islamic Economy vision was discussed separately with leading figures in the Islamic Economy Higher Committee, who plan to attend WIEF following the Minister’s personal invite. Discussion included a potential joint taskforce, and examined areas of collaboration on the six key platforms set out in Dubai’s Islamic Economy plan: finance, insurance, contracts and arbitration, food and trading standards, commerce and industry, and quality management standards. Particular interest was flagged in the UK’s insurance competence. The Minister raised the possibility of a joint taskforce between the UK and UAE.
A roundtable with senior representatives from Abu Dhabi’s Islamic Finance industry covered suggestions as to how the UK can grow its Islamic Finance industry, opportunities for collaboration, and areas of investment of interest to the industry. All agreed that the UK could play a key role in establishing and promulgating global standards for Islamic Finance.
At Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank the Minister encouraged the bank to invest their funds into UK infrastructure projects.
Discussion over lunch with senior management team of the Central Bank focused on the new regulatory framework in the UAE and explored potential for the UK to join the Islamic Finance Services Board.
Baroness Warsi is the first Minister to visit the new Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) financial freezone. The recently appointed Chairman emphasised the desire for a long term relationship with the UK. Specific opportunities exist for the UK to collaborate with ADGM to establish an academic centre of excellence, English Law Courts, an FSA-like Regulator, and a Registrar.
The Minister addressed the third Countering Maritime Piracy Conference alongside Foreign Ministers from across the wider region, setting out the achievements at and since the London Conference on Somalia. The Minister had a lively exchange with Sheikha Lubna, the UAE Minister for Development and International Cooperation, and discussed development and women’s issues..
An up-date on doing business in the UAE and the British business community was provided by members of the Dubai British Business Group over a dinner’. The Minister attended the GCC launch of the new Bentley Flying Spur, with Bentley’s largest dealership worldwide.
In Abu Dhabi, Baroness Warsi hosted a networking event with over 20 leading businesswomen, where Baroness Warsi proposed a “Muslim Women in Business Summit” to be held in London, linked to the Deauville Partnership.
Islamic finance is high profile in the UAE, and the Minister was knocking on open doors. The Minister’s key messages on WIEF, the BBP and London as a Western Hub for Islamic Finance were heard by key decision makers in the UAE, and multiplied in local and regional media through a range of print, TV and social routes. Her vision of an ‘Islamic Finance economy that never sleeps” struck a chord. UAE bodies and institutions are genuinely keen to develop a long term collaborative relationship, with particular interest expressed in setting global standards and the insurance sector. London is already recognised as a key centre for issuing sukuks (Sharia compliant bonds).
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