The British prime minister will push for strengthened co-operation on civil nuclear and green energy projects during a visit to Abu Dhabi.
Brown wants greater nuclear links
ABU DHABI // Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, will today push for strengthened co-operation on civil nuclear and green energy projects during a visit to Abu Dhabi. Mr Brown is seeking additional emergency reserves for the International Monetary Fund amid the worsening world financial crisis. He is also expected to hold lengthy discussions on how to further develop green and civil nuclear energy programmes, it emerged yesterday.
Britain is one of eight nuclear powers co-operating with the Government in its preparations to become the first Arab nation with atomic power. The UK is keen to encourage further investment from sovereign wealth funds and wants to see a final settlement on the long-awaited EU-GCC free trade agreement. "We've got substantial relations already in hydrocarbons - oil and gas - but want to expand that more in renewables," said Edward Oakden, the British ambassador to the UAE. "We look forward to developing our relationship with the Abu Dhabi future energy company, Masdar, and to developing links on the civil nuclear side."
Masdar, the renewable energy company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, last month formed a joint venture with E.ON, Germany's biggest utility company, to invest in the London Array offshore wind farm project. Mr Oakden said there were "large numbers" of joint ventures between the UAE and Britain in the pipeline, but declined to expand further. "It's really urgent that for both energy reasons and climate change reasons we develop new energy sources. This is why civil nuclear energy is so important and why renewable energy is so important, which is why we are keen to work with Masdar," Mr Oakden said.
The British government wants the two countries to form a close partnership as the UK looks to redevelop its nuclear power industry and as the Emirates begins its own. Britain and the Emirates signed a co-operative agreement on civil nuclear energy in May after the UAE indicated its wishes to develop a peaceful nuclear programme. "We are working towards building on that agreement at both a governmental level and a commercial level and both of our governments have come to a view that we need to develop, or redevelop in our case, the civil nuclear power industry to meet the energy gap that we foresee some years down the track," Mr Oakden said.
The specifics of exactly how the governments will work together are not yet clear but they may share information on the construction of nuclear reactors and training of personnel, he said. On Friday, Barclays, a British bank, announced that it had received £7.3 billion (Dh43bn) in funding from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi's Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Qatar. It was seen as a vote of confidence in the beleaguered British economy and the UK government intends to encourage further investments. The visiting delegation is expected to meet with representatives of sovereign wealth funds during their two-day trip to the UAE, which will conclude in Dubai tomorrow.
"The more that international capital flows can be maintained, the less the danger of the system freezing up. One needs to try to keep oiling the wheels of international finance, whether that be through banks or through the sovereign wealth funds," Mr Oakden said. In a column published in The National yesterday, Mr Brown praised the sovereign wealth funds for "taking a long-term view of their investment decisions" and said he welcomed the role they played in the "efficient allocation of capital".
Mr Brown will be accompanied by Peter Mandelson, the secretary of state for business, and Ed Miliband, the newly appointed secretary of state for energy and climate change, as well as more than two dozen chief executives and senior officials from British companies and universities. The visit to the UAE is the final leg of a four-day Gulf tour, during which Mr Brown has travelled to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Mr Mandelson, until recently the EU trade commissioner, may also discuss issues relating to the long-stalled EU-GCC free trade agreement, which the British government wants to see finalised, Mr Oakden said. "The areas of difference are now quite small and we are hopeful that within the coming weeks and months we might be able to conclude this important negotiation," he said. "The importance of free trade, particularly in a financial crisis like this, is one of the most important ways to get the economy going again.
"We would like to promote agreements which free trade and clearly the EU-GCC agreement will be important step in that." Mr Oakden said it was "too early to say" whether visits to Saudi and Qatar were successful in shoring up funds for the IMF. Ukraine and Hungary both approached the IMF for assistance last week, giving weight to concerns that the current $250 billion pool may not be sufficient. Mr Brown is not putting forward a specific package, but instead will talk through "various approaches" to the unprecedented challenges in the global financial system. As well as boosting the IMF's funds Mr Brown will discuss a range of issues relating to trade, the economy and energy, including how countries can work together to stabilise oil prices.