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The Middle East is open for business and full of opportunity


Jack Simpson's Column for the Journal

The Middle East is open for business and full of opportunity.

That was the message regional businesses and I heard from a range of experts at our event we organised with the Department for International Trade. We set it up so more people could realise the substantial opportunities in the region, the North East’s fourth largest market.

In 2018 the North East exported £517m to the Middle East, double the export value of 2015. While it may not surprise many that road vehicles were the top export from the region, there has been high five-year growth in Oils & Perfumes (up 448%), Furniture (up 53%) and Food & Drink (up 72%).

This should hopefully demonstrate not just the fertility of Middle Eastern trade, but the diversity of this economy.

Our full day summit was inspired by Dubai 2020, the World Expo taking place in the UAE city from October next year. Pavilions, businesses and attendees across the world will be attending Dubai 2020, presenting a great opportunity for North East business to break into not just Middle Eastern Markets, but markets across the globe.

Financial, legal, security and relationship building in the Middle East economy were all covered during the knowledge session as attendees heard from experts at KPMG, Square One Law, Emirates Airline and Intelligence Fusion.

Leaving a good first impression is vital in securing and developing business relationships, particularly in the Middle East. My colleague Naz Demir had really useful advice and suggested familiarising yourself on Islamic custom, base language (even just to introduce yourself) and using local news to develop that first contact.

It was good to see business in all stages of their exporting journey, whether just starting or experts their sharing knowledge.

The main takeaway I took, maybe a bit obvious, was being proactive. Finding the right contacts, agents and partners are key to success in any trading environment and the Middle East is no different.

We were also lucky enough to hear from Abdeslam El-Idressi, Deputy CEO & Secretary General of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce who shared his wealth of experience of 35 years spanning the Arab and British business worlds.

Upbeat and passionate, he outlined the role of the Chamber network in promoting global trade and reassured us all that no matter what happens on October 31st, the Middle East will continue to welcome North East exporters.