A conversation with British Trade Envoy to Palestine, Kuwait & Jordan – Baroness Patricia Morris of Bolton
Middle East Business recently had the honour of speaking with Baroness Patricia Morris of Bolton. With a smile and clear passion for the region, Baroness Bolton discussed many issues and kindly allows us to share our conversation with you:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Baroness Morris of Bolton: I have been involved in politics since I was a child. My parents were very political. My first election at school was the only election I ever won! When I actually studied real politics, I didn’t get into the House of Commons when I first stood for Parliament in 1992 when Margaret Teacher was Prime Minister. But I carried on, helping encourage more women to become involved in politics.
I was vice chairman of the Conservative Party and wanted specifically to get a more diverse ethnic background and more women involved with politics. Ten years ago I was appointed to the House of Lords, which was a huge privilege. It’s our second Chamber, the revising Chamber, where we are appointed not elected, but we have a huge impact upon all legislation that is passed in the United Kingdom. And it was there, in the House of Lords, that I was able to develop my love of the Middle East region.
How do you find working with the three different locations you are envoy to?
Well, the three countries are very different but they are also very similar in so many ways. Clearly in Kuwait and Jordan, they do not have the same constraints that are present in Palestine. But there is a great deal of warmth and help towards the Palestinians and this helps me greatly in the work I do in Kuwait and Jordan. Prime Minister David Cameron decided that out of his 8 trade envoys for the whole world, one should cover the Palestinian territories. This shows how much Palestine means to the British people, and how much we want to help as much as we can. We help the most amazing entrepreneurial people – you can just feel it the moment you visit the country.
My challenge is getting as many people here as I possibly can, to explore the relationships we have developed in the Palestinian territories, to see where British companies can come and invest to help to create all those jobs that are so needed. According to research undertaken by Portland Trust, which I think is excellent to read, says that in order to reduce unemployment down to 10% by 2030, Palestinians are going to need one million extra jobs, which must come from the private sector.
Which sectors present the best business opportunities in Palestine?
The Portland Trust document, “Beyond Aid: A Palestinian Private Sector Initiative for Investment, Growth and Employment”, highlighted the five sectors: agriculture, IT & digital entrepreneurship, tourism, construction and energy. These five sectors offer the most potential for job creation. On the tourism side, I wear a completely different hat from my trade envoy hat. I am President of the World Travel Market, and it’s wonderful that Palestine has a stand there.
Palestine is a beautiful region to visit where you get a very warm welcome!
How do you encourage British companies to invest in Palestine?
Palestine is perfectly positioned geographically and gives access to the European markets, to Africa, and to Asia. There is a highly educated, very entrepreneurial population where investors will find very good business partners and brilliant opportunities.
Wherever I am with a business delegation in Kuwait and Jordan, I tell them about what I’m doing in Palestine. I tell them about the great opportunities and keep saying that you just can’t wait for peace, you can’t wait and see what opportunities will develop because other people would already have been there before you. You have got to go and see what opportunities there are NOW. And friendships that are made during difficult times are the most important.
Baroness Morris is a Conservative Peer, which means she sits in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster. She is British Trade Envoy to the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Kuwait and Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. She has also been a spokesperson on Health, Education and Skills, Children, Schools and Families, Women, and Work and Pensions.
The role of trade envoy involves a proactive programme of activities to include leading trade delegations and raising the profile of the relevant markets within the UK. For more details about the Baroness visit: http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/baroness-morris-of-bolton/3681