First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS
The Minister for Economy and I recently undertook overseas visits to the United Arab Emirates, for the World Expo in Dubai, and Brussels respectively. We had a series of engagements to promote Wales and celebrate St David’s Day.
On 1 March, I met with overseas and international partners. In the morning, I was pleased to take part in the virtual signing event for our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Oita Prefecture in Japan. The MOU is the culmination of three years of activity following the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 to formalise links between Wales and Oita in sport, art and culture, academia, tourism and the food and drink sector.
That afternoon, I travelled to London for a dinner to mark St David’s Day hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Canada House. The event was part of a year of activity being undertaken by our two countries through our own Wales in Canada 2022 programme and the High Commission’s Canada Goes Cymru initiative. Wales in Canada 2022 was formally launched in Canada at a reciprocal event at the UK High Commissioner’s Residence in Ottawa on St David’s Day, led by our Welsh Government Office in Montréal.
On 2 March, I was in Brussels for a series of engagements with senior MEPs to affirm Wales’ commitment to Europe, to discuss Wales’ ongoing relationship with the EU, and to share concerns about the unfolding situation in Ukraine. I met the UK Ambassador to the EU to share ideas about how Wales can work with the UK Government in Brussels and I hosted an event for stakeholders to present Wales’ ongoing agenda for European engagement and discuss the situation in Ukraine. There is a positive view of Wales’ desire to remain connected to our European neighbours, and a sense of shared values and perspectives. There is also significant interest amongst European partners about Wales’ new international learning exchange programme, Taith, and recognition that this is a concrete initiative demonstrating Wales’ commitment to international partnerships.
The Minister for Economy had a three day programme in the United Arab Emirates from 28 February to 2 March - alongside a Welsh Government trade mission to the UAE which focussed on the tech industry.
The first day focussed on trade and investment links between Wales and the UAE and included a meeting with the Welsh Government Envoy to the UAE, a roundtable with Welsh companies who have a base in Dubai, a meeting with the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and a discussion with the UK Ambassador to the UAE on UK UAE bilateral relations. There was also the opportunity to tour the UK Pavilion at World Expo before hosting a dinner to showcase food and drink exports from Wales.
Day 2 saw the Minister meeting the UK’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and the UK’s lead negotiator for the forthcoming Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council. They then paid a joint visit to the Ukrainian Pavilion to express their solidarity and leave individual messages of support from both nations on the pavilion’s ‘solidarity wall’.
The evening of 1 March was an opportunity for the Minister to deliver a speech celebrating Wales as a globally responsible nation and to host a St David’s Day reception for key stakeholders, including Welsh food producers.
On the final day of the programme, the Minister took the opportunity to join Welsh fintech companies on a visit to Dubai’s Fintech Hive as part of their trade mission. This was followed by a meeting in Abu Dhabi with the sovereign wealth fund at the forefront of the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership to discuss areas of mutual interest. The visit to Abu Dhabi also included a meeting with the UAE’s leading developer of renewable energy and sustainable urban development. The Minister is looking forward to hosting reciprocal visits to Wales for those he met in Abu Dhabi during the course of this year to showcase Welsh companies.
His visit was rounded off with an event for Welsh diaspora (the Welsh Women in Business in the UAE Network), partners, and stakeholders to mark International Women’s Day.
Both of these overseas visits were part of a much wider Welsh Government global programme of events to celebrate St David’s Day.