His Royal Highness the Duke of York has urged Britain to strike a Free Trade Agreement with Oman and the GCC, following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
Prince Andrew was addressing a reception of senior Omani and British diplomats and business figures at the Anglo-Omani Society (AoS) headquarters in Sackville Street, London held by the Omani British Friendship Association (OBFA) of which he is Patron. Guests included His Highness Sayyid Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said from the Omani Royal family who is also an OBFA Patron.
The Duke said: “The UK is in a position today where it wasn’t about a month ago. I don’t see these as troubled times at all. However, we are where we are. It is fascinating to see how different people are reacting to that new state of affairs. Maqbool Sultan (OBFA chairman) has expressed a desire to be able to conduct more trading activities and to negotiate some form of trade agreement with the UK either as Oman or the GCC. I think that is an excellent idea, but that is his job. But there is a Chinese saying: wei ji – which is crisis and opportunity. Some people will be sitting round scratching their head saying ‘on my God, we are in a crisis’ and there are other people who are sitting around going ‘well actually there could be an opportunity’. On balance I am detecting a great amount of people suggesting there is opportunity in this, not crisis. There are people who are going to take time to come to terms with this set of circumstances and that is inevitable. But I have seen a lot of people starting to go: there is something over the other side of that hedge and it is called the rest of the world. Our two countries have one or two unique aspects. You and ourselves look out over the sea to trading opportunities. Oman has always looked outside its own environment in order to trade with people and you have huge expeditionary capabilities which is in your history, your culture and your DNA. We are an Island nation, if we did not look out over the sea we would never have got anything done.
“We are naturally thinking that way therefore we think in a similar fashion. Therefore, I say to you for that reason alone, the fact we can think alike we have now an opportunity in front of us to make something of what the circumstances have given us. It is down to you, our Government, your Government to work out a way to do this. But the voice of this room, and the people in this room, are able to tell our Government what it is that can sustain it not only now but into the future. The circumstances we find ourselves in I think are more opportunistic.”
His Highness Sayyid Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said also addressed the reception championing Oman’s tourism potential as the most beautiful country in Arabia, as well as its rapidly expanding ports and logistics industry, the subjects of a symposium at the Mansion House the following day.
“Thank you to OBFA and AoS for making this possible to be able to meet once a year. The symposium tomorrow will cover the very important areas of two long term strategies for Oman - logistics and tourism. With regards to logistics Oman continues to capitalise on its geographical position increasingly establishing itself as a major transhipment centre for traffic to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. With ongoing development and expansion plans at various ports, plans to connect the national railway project with the GCC wide rail network will further boost integration in the region. The expansion will solidify Oman’s growing reputation as a logistics hub and encourage Oman to grow in the tourism sector. Meanwhile, one of the key objectives of the Omani tourism strategy is to increase the contribution of the tourism sector to our GDP. The national tourism strategy incorporates an elaborate programme of short, medium and long term strategies together with the implementation of an action plan based on governance, education and socio-economic development to enhance revenue generation and employment opportunities. I hope we can work together in joint investment projects to help create a win-win situation, not only Government to Government, but also rewarding private sector enterprises. Investment is the basis for sustainable growth which we are in need of very badly as of today.”
Other guests included HE Sheikh Al Hinai, Oman's Ambassador to the UK, HE Dr Al Futaisi Oman's Minister of Transport, Lord Ahmad UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport as well as the Ambassadors of Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In addition the Anglo Omani Society chairman Robert Alston and its New Generation Group chairmen Oliver Blake and Sheikh Ma’an Hamad Al-Rawahi helped host the event.
Businesses and Omani Government organisations represented included HSBC, Oman Air, Omran, Oman Global Logistics, Ithraa, Apex Publishing, Oman Travel, Dentons LLP, BAE Systems, Charles Kendall Group, Carillion, Pathfinders and BP.