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Dubai Airshow 2021: DIT DSE reaffirms UAE cooperation

18th November 2021 - 13:41 GMT | by Andrew White in Dubai

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DIT DSE Director Mark Goldsack, pictured in September 2021. (Photo: Shephard Media)

The director of UK Defence and Security Exports at the Department for International Trade spoke exclusively to Shephard about the UK’s partnership strategy with the UAE.

After almost two years of disruption caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Department for International Trade, Defence and Security Exports (DIT DSE) got back to business in the UAE on 14-18 November at the Dubai Airshow 2021.

Speaking to Shephard on 16 November from the event, DIT DSE Director Mark Goldsack described how the Dubai Airshow has provided the UK government with the opportunity to continue growing its partnerships in the Middle East and particularly the UAE.

‘If we're serious about looking at national security, this is about that network of alliances from different countries and partners that we have across the world and having a shared view of a secure environment we want to work in,’ he explained.

'And if we're going to do that, you do need to be interoperable and you do need to have a degree of mutual capability to support. And if you're going to do that, you have to be able to share capability,’ Goldsack added.

Specifically, he highlighted the visit of the UAE delegation to DSEI in September which resulted in a pact between the Tawazun Economic Council and the UK MoD for defence R&D, as well as a Partnership for the Future between the two governments that was announced on 16 September and included a pledge to develop closer defence industrial collaboration.

‘This allows us to bring to life a huge array of options... And that's what we're working through at the moment. There’s quite an intense period of development activity between us as we shape those opportunities from opportunity and to actual delivered success,’ Goldsack noted.

He was unable to identify specific technology areas of interest that are actively being pursued by the UAE and UK, noting: ‘We are in the early stage of discussions so everybody has to be quite careful.’

However, Goldsack did describe how both countries were exploring not only co-investment in each of their respective economies but also the ‘co-creation’ of defence technologies. He added that certain ‘innovative products’ from the UAE are already ‘making it through the initial stages of our own procurement process [in the UK]… And that shows us a degree of maturity that many people might probably be quite surprised by’.

AI is just one area where the UK and UAE are known to be eyeing closer cooperation. In announcing the Partnership for the Future, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, signed an MoU to ‘facilitate the transfer of [AI] knowledge, investment, and standards to bring mutual benefit to both countries’.

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