DUBAI // The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, concluded a four-day tour of the Middle East yesterday by discussing the world financial crisis with political and business leaders in Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, emphasised the importance of co-operation between the financial institutions of the UAE and their counterparts in the UK. He said new methods should be used "to build transparent and balanced partnerships" without the two sides competing with one another.
Co-operation between governments and the private sector is essential to resuscitate the global economy, Sheikh Mohammed said. Mr Brown praised UAE leaders for acting quickly to inject liquidity into banks. "The UAE leadership is keen to help set a required balance in the world financial system," the state news agency WAM quoted him as saying. Joining the meeting with Mr Brown were the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed; the deputy ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed; the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed; and other high-ranking officials.
At a meeting with young entrepreneurs later in the day, Mr Brown said the UAE was in a better position than many countries to ride out the crisis, and that the solution to the credit crunch had to include political as well as economic considerations. Mr Brown's visit to the region, which included stops in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, resulted in more than £500 million (Dh2.9 billion) worth of trade agreements, and included discussions about Middle Eastern countries playing a bigger role in the International Monetary Fund. The British secretary of state for business, Lord Mandelson, who accompanied Mr Brown on the tour, yesterday questioned a proposal by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to create sovereign wealth funds in Europe to help support industry during the crisis.
"I'm not quite sure what the purpose of those is," Lord Mandelson said. "If it's to lead investments by Europe abroad, then I can see the case. I'm not sure I would regard it as overwhelming. "If, on the other hand, the point of such a wealth fund is to defend European companies and frustrate investment by others in those, I'm not sure that there is a need for that. It's really up to President Sarkozy to define what he means by that."
Mr Sarkozy, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, told members of the European Parliament last month: "I'm asking that we think about the possibility of creating, each one of us, sovereign funds and that perhaps they could be co-ordinated to provide an industrial response to the crisis." The visiting British delegation, which included senior executives from a number of major British companies, met yesterday afternoon with senior business figures from Dubai, before meeting with the Young Arab Leaders group (YAL) to talk about how the UAE and UK could co-operate in such matters as education, renewable energy and encouraging entrepreneurship.
Sultan al Qassemi, the chairman of the business group, said: "The main theme was that the UAE has resources, in terms of young people, energy and finance, and the UK has the knowledge base. There are a lot of areas we can work closely together." Muna al Gurg, the vice chairman, added: "Within each focus group we had people with a huge amount of expertise, and the ideas we discussed today will definitely lead on to other things in the future."
Next year the YAL will meet in London, to work on ideas discussed yesterday in more detail. email@example.com * With additional reporting by WAM and AFP