Brown: Bilateral trade to reach £3 billion by 2012

"We share the same values: liberty, democracy, and enterprise," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at the UK-Israel business conference in Jerusalem.

Olmert Brown 88 224 (photo credit: GPO)
Olmert Brown 88 224
(photo credit: GPO)
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday emphasized the UK's long-term economic commitment to Israel and the target of boosting bilateral trade to £3 billion by 2012. "What our countries have in common is that we are global in our outlook. We share the same values: liberty, democracy, and enterprise," Brown said at the UK-Israel business conference in Jerusalem on Sunday evening. "We as a government are totally committed to encourage further economic growth with Israel and increase bilateral trade to £3b. by 2012." Over the past decade the bilateral trade has grown by 40 percent to more than £2.3b per year. The UK was Israel's third largest export destination - not including diamonds - after the US and Germany. Brown added that with over 250 Israeli companies located in the UK and 47 Israeli companies listed on London stock exchanges (41 having joined in the past three years), Israel was one of Britain's top business partners. Furthermore he said he would like to work closer with Israel on an electric car project. Speaking after Brown, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert encouraged his British counterpart to accelerate efforts on the trade targets. "Better if bilateral trade between our countries would reach the £3b. target already by 2010 and £5b. by 2012," Olmert said, adding that Israel needs to double R&D investment to 10% of gross domestic product from the current 4.7%. Also speaking at the UK-Israel business conference, Lord Jones of Birmingham, UK Trade and Investment Minister, who headed a business delegation here as part of Brown's visit this week, said his office was committed to securing 25 more inward investment projects from Israel by 2010. "The timing of this delegation is crucial as foreign investment in both the UK and Israel is at an all-time high," Jones said. "It is my job to ensure that Israeli businesses continue to choose the UK as their global platform for international financial success." The business delegation included senior executives of major UK companies such as Sir Trevor Chinn, senior adviser at CVC Capital Partners Ltd., Sir Victor Blank, chairman of LloydsTSb Bank, Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the Portland Trust, and Ian Livingstone, CEO of British Telecom. "We are keen to see more long-term cooperation be-tween Israel and Britain in the area of research and development as well as an increase in the number of British companies making co-investments with Israeli businesses," Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said at a meeting with Lord Jones on Sunday. One of the goals of the meeting was to try and refresh R&D cooperation in industry and technology. Since the UK decided to close Britech, the Britain-Israel Technology Foundation, founded in 1999, there has been a lack of collaborative R&D projects and technology partnerships. Furthermore the ministry is seeking to sign a memorandum of understanding with Britain over advancing collaborative projects in professional training similar to agreements reached with Germany. Yishai said his ministry was committed to strengthening economic ties between the two countries and therefore the number of officials in the economic division of the ministry's representative office in London was doubled over the past year. English as a common language, geographic proximity and similar legal and financial systems are all factors which have turned Britain into one of Israel's largest and most important blateral trade partners in Europe. In 2006, Britain was Israel's 23rd largest trading partner. The ministry said bilateral trade grew by 11% in 2007. Exports of goods amounted to $1.7b. last year, an increase of about 18% compared with a year earlier.