Strengthening trade ties between the UAE and the UK is of “extreme importance” for the UK government as the country looks to boost its export volumes, says the UK Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Stephen Green.

Speaking at a conference in Dubai organised by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), a government-backed organisation tasked with promoting UK companies abroad, Lord Green added that the UAE and the wider GCC region were of economic and strategic importance for London.

He said that the UK was going through its own “economic transformation” and emphasised the need for the country to fuel economic growth through international trade rather than consumer-led spending. Rather than running up trade deficits, he said “We need to pay our way in the 21stcentury”.

The UK still trails behind its European competitors in terms of the proportion of smaller firms engaged in trade.

Lord Green is leading a UK trade delegation to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The delegation includes representatives from companies including Atkins, Arup, and Mott MacDonald.

His visit is timed to coincide with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Dubai on 5 November.  The prime minister is heading to Saudi Arabia, via Abu Dhabi, to continue a series of key trade talks.

The UKTI has identified a number of megaprojects requiring billions of dollars of investment that it is keen to promote to British companies. Projects in the Middle East include water, waste, desalination and airport projects in Saudi Arabia, the development of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and infrastructure projects linked to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.