In Conversation with Bandar Reda, Secretary-General of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce

Mr. Bandar Reda has served as the Secretary-General and CEO of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) since March 2019. He was nominated for the position by the Board of Directors of the Union of Arab Chambers and approved by the Board of Directors of the ABCC. Mr. Reda enjoys high diplomatic relations given his position as commercial attaché to the UK at the Ministry of Commerce and Investment from  August 2017 to March 2019 and to Italy from 2013 to 2017. He also worked for the Saudi British Bank (SABB) from 2005 to 2013 where he held several positions including Senior Business Banking Development Manager.

Majalla had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Reda ahead of the Arab-British Economic Summit 2019: A Shared Vision to discuss the ways in which the ABCC helps promote trade and investment between Britain and Arab countries and his vision for the chamber to ensure that it remains relevant and prominent in how it serves countries undergoing transformative changes.

Q - Introduce us to yourself.

I am a husband and father of two children. I am from Saudi Arabia; born in Makkah and brought up in Jeddah. I graduated in the US and worked in various sectors including banking. Most recently I was assigned as commercial attaché in the Saudi Embassies in Italy and the UK. I began my position as Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Arab-Britsh Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) in March of this year.

Q - Can you introduce the ABCC to our readers and what it does to help trade and investment between Britain and Arab countries?

The Arab-British Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit membership organization established in 1975 under the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture for the Arab Countries. The Chamber has a unique role in promoting bilateral trade and investment between Britain and Arab countries. To do this, it works closely with government ministries, official trade and investment bodies and Arab diplomatic missions in London, and works closely with British Chambers of Commerce, the League of Arab States, leading trading businesses and Chambers of Commerce in the Arab world.

Q - Tell us about your first few months as the Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer of the ABCC.

I have served as Secretary-General for almost 4 months, and despite the short period, it has been filled with many occasions and work meetings. I pay tribute to the high morale and experience of my colleagues at the Chamber of Commerce.

Q - Which sectors are your priorities currently?

We focus on supporting entrepreneurs, and the technology, entertainment, sports, training, education, and health sectors. This stems from the efforts underway by many Arab countries to diversify their economies.

Q - Getting a greater number of British firms to do business outside the EU forms a significant part of the government’s aim of increasing trade’s contribution to GDP from 30 to 35 percent. What are you doing to draw the attention of UK businesses to opportunities in the GCC?

The Chamber of Commerce offers many exceptional opportunities to involve British and Arab business leaders, corporate executives and the business sector through meetings, workshops, and events. The Chamber's events represent an exceptional platform for communicating with people interested in trade exchange in all major sectors between Britain and Arab countries.

It is noteworthy to address the British Arab Economic Summit 2019 - A Shared Vision [which was held on July 3]. The Summit will showcase the broad range of projects emerging and under development within the Arab world and the huge scope for British involvement. It will offer invaluable opportunities for investors, exporters, experts, consultants and providers of services to engage in dialogue with project leaders and decision makers. The summit will also address several important topics on the economic scene through the following panel discussions: Investment in infrastructure and sustainable development, renewable energy versus non-renewable energy, the Middle East and North Africa region is a hub for global markets, agriculture and water security, entrepreneurship and youth employment and banking and finance.

Q- Has Brexit uncertainty disputed trade relations?

The outlook is always positive as there is interest from many executives, investors, and politicians in the Arab markets, and this was observed at the recent events held by the Chamber.

Q - How is the UK looking to develop trade with countries of the GCC in the post-Brexit environment and which industries do you see benefiting most?

Britain is at a critical juncture in terms of its separation from the European Union. It is expected to seek strategic relations with the GCC countries. We are working to keep abreast of developments in the Arab and British arenas. We also investigate the accuracy of the information declared. Britain's exit from the European Union is still in unclear, and there are still many question marks about the many files that will be affected and the repercussions that could have an impact on the private, commercial and financial sectors. The Chamber was previously hosted by the British Trade Minister at the second GCC-British Economic Forum. In light of this, the forum devoted the final session to discuss this subject in the presence of specialists from both sides.

But British efforts to engage in strategic partnerships with the Gulf states, in particular, and some Arab countries in general, cannot be hidden. This would contribute to raising the trade balance between Britain and Arab countries. 

Q - In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, how can bilateral policy be developed in terms of streamlining investment and market access?

The Chamber is exerting its efforts to assist the foreign investor in reaching investment opportunities in the Arab countries. The Chamber is introducing the best products and industries in the Arab region to raise the value of the British import in cooperation with parties on both sides.

For the British side, there needs to be a review the investment opportunities available to the Arab investor, especially in small industries, and offer facilities to be one of the first destinations for Arab investors in this field.

Q - Which countries outside of the GCC could increase in importance most significantly as potential export markets?

All Arab countries have different export potentials and opportunities, for example, North Africa, which has been a desirable market in recent years, and the volume of foreign investment there is growing year after year.

Q - Looking ahead, how do you see the bilateral trade and commercial relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia evolving over the next 5 to 10 years?

The Kingdom is a strategic economic partner of Britain in the Middle East, and the British side has shown interest in entering into strategic partnerships with the Kingdom since the announcement of Vision 2030. Several roundtable meetings were held in the presence of major UK companies to review the Ministry of Trade’s plan within the framework of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
We recently organized several events that support the vision, including a conference on investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia - which was organized in partnership with the General Investment Authority (SAGIA) - where we received the commercial delegation from the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

We look forward to further cooperation and we are ready to keep up with this ambitious vision to achieve its objectives. At these meetings and events, we invite decision-makers, entrepreneurs, and investors from the British side interested in investing in Saudi Arabia to introduce them to the opportunities available in Kingdom.

Q  - What is your vision for the ABCC to ensure that it remains relevant and prominent in how it serves countries undergoing transformative changes?

We plan to communicate and cooperate with the Saudi Embassy in the UK to keep abreast of economic developments and implement programs and events that serve a successful trade exchange between the two countries in the future. We also plan to establish forums and economic events that give the British investor opportunities to trade and invest in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.