Lord Green: British business needs to be active and persistent in Libya

Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Green has advised UK firms to take a considered, strategic and active approach when it comes to doing business in Libya.

He was speaking in London on Wednesday to over 500 businesses, largely small and medium-sized, at a conference on Rebuilding Libya. It was the third conference involving UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) on the subject of Libya this year.

Lord Green said that it was in the UK’s national interest to build a long-term relationship with Libya. He stressed that British companies had an important role in helping Libya recover from the recent conflict and in helping the Libyan people to have a prosperous and secure future.

"At the political level, the UK is doing all it can to help. We fully understand that the immediate priority for the Libyan authorities is in restoring security and meeting humanitarian needs. But we also know that getting the Libyan economy up and running is essential for its long-term political stability, and that getting assets unfrozen is a priority," he said.

"Our advice, when it comes to doing business with Libya, can be summed up in the words: 'strategic patience and persistence'. I am convinced that it’s in the UK’s interests to build a long-term relationship with Libya."

Libya’s economy is expected to rebound strongly from the conflict, with the UN forecasting growth rates of 4.2%, well above the international average. The post-conflict reconstruction programme is estimated to require over $200 billion in expenditure over the next ten years. The Transitional Government is not expected to sign any major contracts, except in the most urgent areas, pending next year’s elections.

UKTI is working closely with the Transitional Government to identify priority areas where the expertise of UK businesses can add most value to the reconstruction programme, both immediately and in the longer-term.

A visit by healthcare firms this week, for example, focused on giving advice on setting up a healthcare system, with priority on improving trauma care and helping those hurt in the conflict. Representatives of British companies held meetings at senior levels and paved the way for another healthcare mission in the New Year; and the provision of urgent assistance in the interim.

UK Trade & Investment has recently increased its presence in Libya. The team has identified key areas where UK businesses can help, including: airports and ports; education; infrastructure; oil and gas; health; and policing.

To date, they have worked constructively with the Transitional Government and have engaged with over 500 UK businesses.

Lord Green noted that UK Export Finance, formerly known as the Export Credits Guarantee Department, had increased its risk capacity for Libya to £375 million - up from the £150 million made available immediately after hostilities ended in September.

Via UK Export Finance, firms of all sizes can now obtain Libya insurance against the risk of non-payment on overseas contracts, and can gain help with working capital to fulfil large orders.

(Source: Fresh Business Thinking)

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