UK envoy: Trade boom proves no Israel boycott

"Our content and your technology go incredibly well together," says Gould.

By NADAV SHEMER
February 29, 2012 23:35
2 minute read.
UK Ambassador Matthew Gould

UK Ambassador Matthew Gould 311. (photo credit: UK Embassy in Israel (YouTube))

 
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UK-Israel bilateral trade soared 34 percent to £3.75 billion ($6b.) last year – proving there is no economic boycott of Israel, British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, said Wednesday.

Israeli exports to the UK stood at £2.18 billion ($3.5b.) and British exports to Israel reached £1.57 billion ($2.5b.) in 2011. This made Israel the UK’s largest trade partner in the Middle East and its 29th largest export market overall, according to UK Trade & Investment.

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“These figures are big enough to be important to both countries,” Gould told economic reporters at his Ramat Gan residence. “They also implicitly give a very good answer to anyone who talks about economic boycott, and that answer is: ‘What economic boycott?’”

Gould argued that Israelis have a tendency to overestimate the impact of British pro-boycott campaigns. He gave the example of the decision made by West Dumbartonshire Council last year to initiate its own economic boycott of Israel.

“The truth was: you weren’t talking about the whole of Scotland – you weren’t even talking about the whole of Dumbartonshire; you were talking about West Dumbartonshire, a small local council. The economic impact of their decision is not going to be felt by anyone in Israel, and yet they were given all this publicity,” he said.

Economic growth is UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s top priority, the ambassador said, pointing out that the government’s 2011 White Paper on Trade and Investment for Growth named Israel as a key strategic partner for the future.

Gould said 250 Israeli companies currently operate in the UK, including Israel Chemicals, Elbit Systems and Teva Pharmaceuticals, and added that one of his focuses was to attract more Israeli firms to establish operations there.

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“Like the US, we have an enormous source of capital… [but] unlike the US, we are less than a five-hour flight away, almost in the same time zone,” he said.

Referring to the British embassy’s recently established Hi-Tech Hub – which aims to create technological partnerships between the UK and Israel – Gould said the two countries complemented each other perfectly in a number of industries, including water, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Gould said next week’s scheduled visit by Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey – who will lead a delegation, including executives from the BBC and Samsung – provided a good example of why the UK and Israel work well together.

“Britain is world-class at producing content: TV, Internet, and so on. Israel is absolutely world-class at producing the technology that can take the content to the consumer and monetize it,” Gould said. “There is a fantastic synergy there. Our content and your technology go incredibly well together.”

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