Skip to main content

Britain's David Cameron makes 11th hour push for Middle East contracts

By John Defterios, CNN
updated 7:03 AM EST, Sun November 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Cameron says sale of BAE Eurofighter Typhoon does not have to close this week
  • About 230,000 jobs, government officials suggest, are directly linked to aerospace
  • Prime Minister has not hid his desire to advance relations with the Middle East

Dubai, UAE (CNN) -- A year-long intense diplomatic push by British Prime Minister David Cameron to advance his country's business interests in the United Arab Emirates may not yet deliver the contracts he was hoping for.

During his only international interview on his UAE visit ahead of the official opening of the Dubai Air Show on Sunday, Cameron told CNN the sale of up to 60 BAE Eurofighter Typhoon for $10 billion does not have to close this week.

"I'm very hopeful and we've made huge progress. And we're looking at, not just at one particular deal, we're looking at a proper strategic defense partnership between our countries. I'm very confident that is on track," the Prime Minister said. "I'm hopeful for good announcements from Airbus, real progress in terms of BAE Systems, lots of British companies here and also big investments being made by the Emirates into Britain."

About 230,000 jobs, government officials suggest, are directly linked to aerospace. Before leaving, those officials said the Prime Minister held meetings with the Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The Typhoon is built by Britain's BAE, Germany's EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica, but the U.K. is the lead contractor in negotiations. This is widely viewed as an all out effort to snatch it out of the grasp of French rival Dassault and its jet-fighter offering the Rafale.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened a naval air base in the UAE in 2009, and there was a widespread belief it was France's contract to lose, but there was on-going rumblings over pricing in the UAE capital over the past two years, which re-opened discussions for Britain.

The British Prime Minister has not hid his desire to advance diplomatic and economic relations with the Gulf states of the Middle East to help secure contracts and therefore jobs back on British soil. British officials here talk of a "domino effect" if they can close the UAE deal, since others would likely fall into place, as well.

On Thursday, Britain announced that the UAE would be one of four Gulf states to have its citizens enjoy the benefits of an electronic visa waiver scheme, which can be obtained 48 hours before traveling.

Those two gestures follow a ringing endorsement by the British Prime Minister of Dubai as a candidate city for the 2020 Expo bid which will be decided this month. This past week, his ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey, said Britain is often been seen as the "eighth emirate." The UAE is a federation of seven emirates, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai being the two largest, which was founded in 1971.

While business development is being worked on, the so-called P5+1 talks are scheduled to resume with Iran on its nuclear program. Gulf states are skeptical that Iran will abide by any terms to limit development of that sector.

Cameron said sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiating table, and a deal should not happen prematurely when asked if sanctions could start to be lifted in the first quarter of next year.

"Britain led the way in Europe putting in place those oil sanctions which i think have brought us to this place. And my view is clear, there shouldn't be removal of sanctions unless there is a good deal."

This year and next are crucial when it comes to strategic business interests, and this extends far beyond what Britain is hoping to secure. The two largest commercial carriers, Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad are planning to unveil multibillion-dollar plane orders as they experience rapid growth serving as a transport hub between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Ahead of the official opening of the air show, Boeing released its Current Market Outlook report suggesting that the region will need 2610 new airplanes over the next two decades, with a book value of over a half trillion dollars.

Outside the aerospace sector, the UAE has also accepted bids for tenders of its onshore oil and gas fields. For the first time in three-quarters of a century, production sharing agreements are expiring. While past energy production was dominated by Western-led international oil companies working with Abu Dhabi's national oil company ADNOC, the UAE has let it be known countries which are major importers of its crude will be given equal weighting during this bidding process.

The UAE is looking to expand its daily out of crude from 2.9 million barrels a day to 3.5 million by 2017 and sits on roughly 9% of the world's proven oil reserves.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:43 AM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
Captain Michel Gagneux takes control during the test flight.
Even when pulling a 60-degree angle bank turn over the Dubai desert, the U.S. military's V-22 Osprey aircraft is hardly approaching the limits of its capabilities.
updated 6:11 AM EST, Thu November 21, 2013
As the Middle East is clamoring to train new pilots, has the time finally come for Arab women to enter the cockpit?
updated 11:52 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
The Middle East private jet market may be small, but the passengers flying on the region's luxury planes can be the most demanding.
updated 10:29 AM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
In 1997, Andy Green broke the sound barrier driving the Thrust SSC. Now, he wants to do it again. Can he beat 1,000mph?
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Expanding airlines are pushing into emerging markets and illustrate a shifting balance of power.
updated 5:23 AM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
Drones have proven themselves capable sheep herders, delivery boys, archaeologists, and -- possibly -- spies.
updated 6:18 AM EST, Thu November 21, 2013
In just a few decades, Dubai has risen from relative obscurity to become a global leader in the world of aviation.
updated 6:03 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
From mega-airports to new routes, the Middle East is building big to accommodate the world's growing air travelers.
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
air france plane flying
High-flyer or well-grounded?Plane geeks get your fix with our aviation quiz.
ADVERTISEMENT