KUWAIT: Vincent Keaveny, Lord Mayor of London said that UK's relations with Kuwait are "longstanding", through cooperation that dates far back, particularly on the economic, financial and investment related spectrums. Brexit has allowed the UK to refocus and rethink its trade and investment strategy and to unearth ways to revitalize these ties with the wider Gulf Cooperation Council, the Lord Mayor told KUNA in an interview. The global COVID-19 pandemic has "held things back," he added, underlining the need to move on to a new post-pandemic stage.

London's status as the most important financial hub in the world, he said, has not been affected by Brexit, as it benefits from numerous advantages, including language, innovation and the ease of the movement of capital. Britain's capital has been able to create tens of thousands of jobs post-Brexit, especially in the field of innovation and technology, the Lord Mayor said, with employees in this field estimated at 2.3 million across the UK.

On the exchange rate drop of the pound last week and its impact on investment in London, he said, the government has now taken the necessary measures to recover and has learned the lesson that, when developing government economic policies, it must be certain that markets are ready for implementing such policies. This decline, he explained, was due to the fact that tax policies were announced before markets were alerted.

No damage has been caused to existing investments in London or the UK, and this will not be repeated, he underlined, noting that several investors and businessmen saw in the declining currency, new investment opportunities. Kuwaiti investments in London are long-term and have existed for decades, as the Kuwait Investment Authority office prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary next year.

During these years, the UK has experienced many financial crises, an economic downturn and economic turmoil, he added. These investments have remained. As for the volume of trade exchange with Gulf countries, Lord Keaveny said last year it recorded about GBP 35.5 billion. The volume of trade with Kuwait only exceeded GBP 2.4 billion, he added, citing the reason that many British goods are shipped to the country from the United Arab Emirates.

Lord Keaveny said there is a need to raise trade volume with Kuwait through joint action - the signing of a free trade agreement. This would reflect positively in improving these numbers, mirroring the two countries' depth of historic political relations. This would also be a starting point for the development of stronger long-term trade relations. Speaking about his visit, he said it included meetings with Kuwaiti officials, economic institutions and public benefit associations, during which they discussed cooperation in renewable energies and the UK's plans to reduce its carbon footprint to zero emissions. Other meetings brought him together with representatives of several Kuwaiti banks, who showed interest in financial technology services (FinTech), digital infrastructure and electronic banking services located in London. London is a financial center for electronic financial services, with USD 9 billion invested in the first six months of this year alone on these services.

This number is more than investments in Europe, Africa and the Middle East combined in regards to this sector, he suggested. Visits to other parts of the world, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, alongside another 20 countries, saw banks also express their interest in these services. In regards to fossil fuel emissions, he said that the UK is committed to its goal to reach zero emissions and has set conditions and requirements on hydrocarbon products, in terms of reducing the proportion of emissions.

This is something Kuwait is working on, he said, indicating that the UK can be a partner in achieving this goal. Asked about the energy crisis in Europe during the upcoming winter period, he said recent geopolitical events have prompted the continent to search for solutions to the problem of energy supply chains and to rely on renewable energies. With regards to the British government, he said he is confident it has taken the necessary steps to secure energy during this difficult time. - KUNA