Big 5: Construction boosts Wales's UAE exports

United Arab Emirates now represents third-biggest export market for Wales - bigger than China, India and Japan combined

Lee Jennings, MENA regional manager, Welsh Government.
Lee Jennings, MENA regional manager, Welsh Government.

The construction industry is playing an important part in strengthening trade relations between Wales and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Welsh Government's MENA regional manager, Lee Jennings.

The Welsh Government had its own pavilion at the Big 5 once more this year, where a host of firms were represented including steelmakers, LED lighting specialist, laminate flooring providers and a solar panels specialist.

Jennings explained that since the Welsh Government set up its own office (within the British Embassy) in the UAE 10 years ago trade between the two countries has rocketed.

"Before we had an office here, we did £174mn ($273mn) around the region," he said. "Last year we did £2.2bn ($3.4bn) to the UAE and £3.5bn ($5.5bn) to the wider MENA region."

Indeed, over the past ten years it has exported $22.7bn to the region - $14bn of which goes to the UAE.

That makes the country Wales's third-biggest export market behind the US and Ireland, and it exports more to the UAE than it does to China, India and Japan combined.

Jennings said construction "is a really important part" of this.

"We've got some very innovative, quality companies here who are selling into the market at five-star level. We've been supplying projects over here for a number of years - the kind of equipment you wouldn't be aware of.

"For example, we have a company from just outside Newport called Hawker Siddeley Switchgear that suppled all of the switchgear for the Dubai Metro. The steel structure for Ski Dubai came from Port Talbot."

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