MANAMA: Bilateral trade between Bahrain and the UK jumped 10 per cent year-on-year to £1.3 billion as of end-2019, British Ambassador Roddy Drummond told the Bahrain British Business Forum (BBBF) yesterday.
"We can see a steady growth in trade and investment and services for the last five years and we started this year actually in very good shape but then we were hit by the Covid-19 crisis," he said during a video chat with the forum chairman Khalid Al Zayani and vice chair Paula Boast.
According to Mr Drummond, education, training, healthcare, life sciences, infrastructure, energy, creative industries and inward investment continue to be the priority sectors for bilateral collaboration.
"They have all been affected in different ways. Education for instance had to shift delivery online, which generated a bit of insecurity in professional training, but we are also seeing lots of opportunities," he added.
In the wake of the pandemic, the embassy has seen a shift towards 'ed-tech' across the whole region, with people realising that many more things can be done online or partly online as they take advantage of new online resources like artificial intelligence, remote delivery, virtual classrooms.
"A lot of British providers are really well-placed to provide those opportunities. We are working to support them with existing providers and investors so they can take advantage of those opportunities."
The diplomat said a key sector is healthcare, where he has noted a shift towards essential care and an emphasis on online solutions, with new products and services have emerged with supply chains being challenged in different ways.
Despite the slowdown, Mr Drummond remains optimistic about future collaborations with Bahrain, especially with mega projects such as the Bahrain Metro and King Hamad Causeway moving along.
"Projects in Bahrain can continue to be supported by UK Export Finance, the book is still open and we have a positive rating for Bahrain and about the opportunities here and would like to make a positive difference to the viability of projects over the next couple of years," he said.
“For example, the UK Export Finance has done a series of collaborations here over the last few years such as supporting the Bapco Modernisation Programme, which is now half done."
Speaking during the chat, Mr Al Zayani said the forum marking its 25th anniversary this year is a remarkable milestone and it would continue to work for stronger engagements with the UK covering trade and culture.
"The BBBF's core objective is to enhance the economic interests of both the UK and Bahrain in a favourable business environment. In looking ahead, we are determined to maintain and enhance our reputation as the key business forum promoting Bahrain as the regional centre from which to conduct business throughout the Middle East," he added.
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