British Deputy PM Says UK to Cooperate with Saudi Arabia on Green Hydrogen, Renewable Energy

British Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Oliver Dowden speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat
British Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Oliver Dowden speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat
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British Deputy PM Says UK to Cooperate with Saudi Arabia on Green Hydrogen, Renewable Energy

British Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Oliver Dowden speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat
British Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Oliver Dowden speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat

British Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Oliver Dowden has said that the UK has agreed with Saudi Arabia to strengthen cooperation in areas such as green and clean hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

“We are keen to make more efforts together in research and innovation in renewable energy,” Dowden told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in an interview.

“Saudi Arabia is a testbed for so much of the innovation that will transform all of our lives, from clean energy to healthy lifestyles,” he said.

Here is the full text of the interview:

Q: What are you hoping to achieve from the GREAT FUTURES event in Riyadh and why is it important?

One of the most extraordinary stories in our world at the moment is the social, economic and cultural transformation of Saudi Arabia. Your country is now home to some of the world's largest initiatives, including five major giga projects, investing more than three trillion by 2030, all encapsulated by your country’s ‘Vision 2030.’

Britain wants to not only endorse ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, we want to be part of it.

That’s why I’m leading a 400+ strong business delegation, the biggest ever UK business delegation to Saudi Arabia. I’ll be joined by captains of UK industry from financial services, business and culture. We are coming to promote cooperation between our Kingdoms and secure joint investment across critical sectors from financial services, business, education, and culture.

Alongside His Excellency Minister Al Qasabi, I co-chair the UK-Saudi ‘Strategic Partnership Council’ established in 2018 to underpin relations between our kingdoms - and through this partnership we have already achieved much and there is more to come.

The two day GREAT FUTURES summit will serve as a forum to continue discussions about further investment in many sectors, including critical minerals and cutting edge technology, as well as the planned free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

This year-long campaign is no longer just a vision, but rather a plan of action that the UK is proud to be a key partner in supporting.

It demonstrates the UK’s commitment to support Saudi Arabia’s transformation and also acts as a mechanism to turbocharge British businesses presence in the Kingdom and accelerate vital business to business links that make our relationship so valuable. Britain is the perfect partner to help achieve its huge ambitions.

Q: What will you be announcing at GREAT FUTURES?
New figures show that Saudi inward investment into the UK from Saudi Arabia has topped £16.8 billion since 2017.
The North East of England alone stands to benefit from a further £3 billion of planned investment from Saudi Arabia, sustaining 2,000 jobs in the region.
On top of these new figures, I will be announcing a constellation of new investment between our two Kingdoms - in sectors including financial services, education, culture and more.

Specifically the United Kingdom will sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding (agreement) with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia renewing a joint commitment to further investment.

British universities as a university as The University of Strathclyde plans to cooperate with its counterpart Saudi universities. The new partnership represents a wave of institutions expanding into the region, with 40 higher educational partnerships signed between the two Kingdoms to date.

We agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as green and clean hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). We are keen to make more efforts together in research and innovation in renewable energy. Saudi Arabia is a testbed for so much of the innovation that will transform all of our lives, from clean energy to healthy lifestyles.

Q: Why is it easy to do business in Saudi Arabia?
We have strong trade links and established business practices. Saudi Arabia is the 20th largest UK export market with £11.7 billion total exports for the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023.

This partnership is really a two-way street. We’re opening up our markets to one another, so that investment, exports, tourism and collaboration flows in both directions

Q: What will you be doing in AlUla?

As former Culture Secretary, one of the most exciting areas of collaboration is the cultural exchange and I am eager to see the magnificence of AlUla, which I’ve heard so much about.

I will be visiting the beautiful and internationally significant city to make the expected announcement of further cultural partnerships between our two Kingdoms.

Q: Doing business in the UK is now harder than ever because of the UK’s regulatory system, is that something you can tell us about?

It is important to stress that the UK’s National Security & Investment Act will always enthusiastically champion open markets, recognizing the vast majority of inward investment is highly beneficial. But alongside our openness to investment, the government also needs to undertake appropriate due diligence in sensitive sectors, to manage our national security interests.

The National Security and Investment Act gives us the tools to do this. Our aim is to enable investments wherever we can, sometimes with appropriate protections in place.

Q: What does the UK-Saudi relationship mean for stability in the region?

The UK and Saudi Arabia have a deep historical relationship, based on a long history of working together diplomatically, a close military and security relationship, and strong economic and commercial links. This relationship is important in maintaining and developing how we work together to tackle regional threats, and ensure greater stability for the region.



Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The surge in visitors to Lebanon during Eid al-Adha and high demand for summer concert bookings are boosting hopes for a revival in tourism.

This sector is crucial for reigniting positive economic growth after about nine months of challenging conditions due to the Gaza war and subsequent border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon.

Contrary to earlier fears this month of possible Israeli strikes inside Lebanon, Ali Hamieh, caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport, reported a daily average of 14,000 arrivals at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, with numbers on the rise.

Jean Abboud, President of the Association of Travel and Tourism Agents, confirmed that despite initial concerns, booking rates have bounced back to 90-95% after Israeli threats of a mid-month strike. Most arrivals are Lebanese expatriates and foreign workers.

Before the summer season’s anticipated surge, Lebanon saw a 5.37% decrease in arrivals, with air traffic down by 9.34% and passenger numbers at Beirut International Airport dropping by 6.84% in the first five months of this year, totaling 2.29 million travelers compared to 2.46 million last year.

These declines were linked to the border clashes.

Lebanon’s tourism sector, generating over $5 billion annually in recent years, ranks as the country’s second most vital revenue stream after expatriate remittances, which officially approach $7 billion.

Together, they contribute more than half of Lebanon’s national income, which has dropped sharply from about $55 billion to under $22 billion due to the ongoing financial and currency crises that erupted five years ago.

Despite significant losses during peak tourism seasons like Christmas, Easter, and Eid al-Fitr, a report by Bank Audi indicated that Lebanon’s tourism revenues lost over $1 billion in the first six months of the Gaza conflict, driven by a 24% drop in tourist arrivals.

On average, tourists spend around $3,000 during their stay in Lebanon.