The UK Minister for Exports and Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer, has been emphasising the significant deals the UK Pavilion has made during the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region, with about GBP 200 million of export wins, plus invaluable networking opportunities.

Speaking during a visit to Expo 2020 Dubai for the UK National Day celebrations, the Minister praised the event and explained how it has showcased the latest technologies.


What are your initial impressions of Expo 2020 Dubai? - This is my second visit to Expo 2020 since my first in December [2021] – I have to say it just gets better. Each time you visit Expo 2020, you see just a different side of it, which is a huge testament to the global reach of the UAE. To see so many countries putting on a display of the best of their nation is quite remarkable. It’s been truly amazing to see Expo in its glory, and also to revisit the UK Pavilion, which I think is quite iconic and very different from the other pavilions.

Why is it important for the UK to be part of this global event?

Having hosted the first ever World Expo in 1851, we have a long history of understanding the importance of World Expos. And because of the pandemic, there has been a real desire for people to get back together. We’ve missed human contact, especially with our friends, and of course as a nation – getting that back, alongside our friends in the UAE, is important to us.

Have there been key learnings during the pandemic? - The pandemic has, in many ways, been a disaster for economies, with many people being housebound and not able to physically socialise, but this has led to innovation. We have now embraced technology, holding virtual meetings across the globe, and Expo has allowed us to not only see the best of the Middle East, with the UAE being an open and dynamic country, but also harnessed new technology – the online ability to visit Expo from wherever you are in the world is a really new phenomenon.

The UK Pavilion is located in the Opportunity District. What opportunities has the UK gained by being at Expo 2020 Dubai, in terms of business and trade? - A number of things. First of all, it's allowed us to showcase some of our expertise in AI and to show that the UK remains at the forefront of new technologies. In terms of business, it allows us to get businesses together and to network with businesses. We've achieved just under GBP 200 million worth of export wins based on [Expo 2020] Dubai, let alone all of the other export opportunities that will arise from the ability to network with other businesses on-site. As a government minister, my ability to be able to talk to my counterparts in other countries and to visit their pavilions is important. The ability to network is an amazing opportunity for trade.

Sport is a significant theme in the UK National Day programme, with the country promoting events such as the Commonwealth Games 2022. Why is sport so important as a cultural export? - We have a long history as a country of being very good at sport and inventing many global sports, football being one of them. The good side of sports, of course, [is that] it helps us to keep our populations healthy, but also that ability where people learn that if they work hard, they can succeed, is a very important message for our education system … Team spirit and coming together with a common goal to work hard is a really strong message for Expo 2020, too. The ability to showcase the Commonwealth Games with the baton visiting various pavilions around Expo also sends a powerful message for the UK Pavilion – especially in the Platinum [Jubilee] year of Her Majesty the Queen.

Regarding equality and inclusion, particularly gender equality and women’s empowerment, why is the full and equal participation of women in society important? - Gender equality is allowing people to be who they are and to harness their potential. If you look at the United Kingdom, we've had two women Prime Ministers and we have the most amazing Queen. We are a shining example of the power of women's involvement in society. It’s not just the right thing to do … it actually makes good economic sense to empower your people to reach their potential.”

With Queen Elizabeth II marking her 70th anniversary on the throne this month, what do you think that we could all learn from Her Majesty? - I think the Queen is remarkable. She’s a shining example of dedication, and someone committed her vows … to always serving the United Kingdom … Countries go through different times and she's led us through those because she is very stoic. In terms of what we can learn from her is whatever happens, you need to keep that ‘stiff upper lip’ and carry on.

One of Expo 2020 Dubai’s key missions is to promote what we can do as individuals to support our planet. What are you doing on a personal level to ensure you have a positive environmental impact? - I'm an avid recycler. I will try and buy products that allow me to recycle any packaging. I've just bought my first electric car, which should be delivered in the next month or so. I’m just about to insulate my home to minimise energy consumption. One thing that we're guilty of is food waste – buying too much food that ends up in the bin – so we’re particularly keen on minimising waste.

Delroy Constantine-Simms and Sonia Dixon