express– The Foreign Secretary will touch down in Saudi Arabia for talks this morning to meet her opposite number to discuss forging closer ties. She will then fly to Qatar to meet His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
While the situation in Afghanistan is set to be the top priority in talks, Ms Truss is also eager to use her experience from when she was International Trade Secretary to increase export opportunities for Britain.
Before being reshuffled in September, Ms Truss agreed 68 trade deals with nations around the world.
Securing the agreements in just two years, her performance made her a favourite among Tory members.
The Foreign Secretary said ahead of her trip: “Closer security and economic ties with Gulf allies will help us deliver jobs and opportunities for people back in the UK and ensure as friends and partners that we are operating from a position of strength in the world.
“I want a closer trading and investment relationship with the Gulf and for us to collaborate more closely on issues like intelligence sharing, development, security and defence.”
The visit is her first to the region since taking over the role from Dominic Raab.
Her discussions come just weeks after preparations got under way for a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Trade with the GCC, which includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar among its members, is already worth more than £30billion.
It is hoped a free trade deal will help increase investment opportunities for industries such as digital trade, services and green growth.
Over £597million of British food and drink exports headed to GCC countries last year, including lamb, biscuits and chocolate.
On October 8 International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan launched a 14-week consultation with the public and businesses to ensure a future deal reflects the UK’s best interests.
She said at the time: “A trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council is a huge opportunity to liberalise trade with a growing market for British business and deepen ties with a region that is vital to our strategic interests.
“We want a modern, comprehensive agreement that breaks down trade barriers to a huge food and drink market and in areas like digital trade and renewable energy which will deliver well-paid jobs in all parts of the United Kingdom.”
The UK sees green energy as an industry ripe to boost the UK’s trade links around the world as countries look at moving away from traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels.
Making the case for more climate friendly energy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Global Investment Summit yesterday: “This was the first nation to industrialise, to send the plumes of smoke from the midlands we were the first to knit the deadly tea cosy of CO2 that is now driving climate change so, we have a responsibility to set an example – and we are.
“We are already the Saudi Arabia of wind power – with more offshore wind than anywhere else on earth.”
Speaking of the benefits of a trade deal with the GCC, International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena added: “The nations forming the Gulf Cooperation Council are, together, one of our biggest trading and investment partners and are home to over 50 million people.
“From exports of Welsh lamb and Scotch beef, to biscuits from Belfast and financial services from the City of London, we are determined to strike a deal that will further cement our relationships, attract investment, promote trade opportunities and provide significant benefits for British business, creating jobs in communities across the country.”