British – Israel trade relations

Yesterday, I met up with Richard Salt, Director of Trade and Investment at the British embassy in Tel Aviv. A career diplomat, Richard has a focused appraisal of what works in international trade. 

At a purely statistical level, he revealed that trade between the two countries continues to expand. Annual bilateral trade is close to US$2.4 billion, split fairly evenly between the two countries. Even during the disastrous year of 2009, the fall off was slight compared to other trading partners.

Richard described a very interesting model, which the embassy has for promoting British companies that are looking to enter the Israeli market. For a nominal charge, his staff runs due diligence on a series of potential partners and then lends support during the negotiations stage. The result is that completion levels have risen substantially in recent years.

In parallel, there are over 3,000 Israeli firms operating in the UK. About a tenth of these are supporting significant manufacturing and distribution services, a clear benefit to the local economy. And while much is made of Israel high tech and IT contributions, the uplift goes much further.

For example, HSBC in London has made a significant investment this week in Shai Agassy’s “Better Place” electric car company. In the list of the top richest Britons, there are at least 5 Israeli-born nationals. Bolton, Portsmouth and Liverpool football clubs are benefitting from talent, natured in the Holy Land. And for all the troubles of 2009, Israel still claims around 40 of the 600 companies on the AIM financial market.

The good news for both countries? There are more benefits to be reaped from this growing bilateral partnership.

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