Exclusive interview with UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, Baroness Emma Nicholson
Question: One of the most successful spheres of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the UK is the energy sector, with oil major BP implementing huge projects in the country. How do you see the future of collaboration in this field?
Answer: I see great things in the future of Azerbaijan-UK energy co-operation, including the potential completion of the Southern Gas Corridor main pipeline, delivering Azerbaijani gas to Italy. This is an extraordinary milestone for the engineering project, which I have been involved with for some years. T
he partnership agreement between Azerbaijan and the UK, alongside our world-class operators SOCAR and BP, will ensure that Azerbaijan benefits from the latest oil and gas extraction technologies.
The energy market will transform over the next decade, generating new opportunities for investment in Azerbaijan. As the world pivots towards lower-carbon technologies, with the COP26 conference approaching in November, nations will make new commitments to reduce their emissions. Azerbaijan has made excellent strides forward in this area by commissioning wind and solar energy projects, and the UK is ready to invest in the sector to help maximise Azerbaijan’s solar, wind and hydro generation potential.
BP has just announced its commitment to be a “net zero” company in terms of its carbon emissions. That is a great step forward and a sign that the COP26 process is building momentum. I hope that SOCAR and all operators in Azerbaijan will make a similar commitment.
Q.: Which spheres have still untapped potential in terms of developing the bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and UK, alongside with the traditional sectors?
A.: There is great potential for investment and trade between our countries, and for Azerbaijan to diversity its economy and build out from its powerful oil and gas sector. I am happy to support this strategy and the reforms to the business environment which are taking place in Azerbaijan.
As the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, it has been my pleasure to meet many Azerbaijani delegations visiting the UK helping businesses from across sectors from health and agriculture to education and space create excellent contacts with their British counterparts.
Away from the world of business, I have enjoyed leading an exceptional educational partnership between our countries. As well as the many partnerships between UK and Azerbaijani schools and universities, the British Government is investing in Learning Hubs to bring cutting edge English Language training to children from families internally displaced by conflict.
The growth of the British Council’s ‘Creative Spark’ programme, and the excitement it creates, show it is a perfect fit with Azerbaijan’s needs. I hope that partnerships within the creative industries continue to flourish. Music and performing arts exchanges are flourishing, such as the spectacular visit to Baku of the Candoco dance group, organised by the British Council.
The British Council’s ‘Crafting Futures’ programme is also generating wonderful artisanal relationships, such as The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts’ engagement with Azerbaijan.
Q.: How do you assess the current level of trade relations between the two countries? Do you believe that this level is corresponding to the existing potential of Azerbaijan and the UK?
A.: The current level of trade is impressive, but I would like to see it increased in both directions to improve the prosperity of our partner nations. Azerbaijani agricultural produce, including wine, is delicious and I am sure it would be popular in the UK if it can be brought to market there. British exporters will continue to seek new ways to meet demand here. We are hoping, for example, to exhibit British products at the ADEX trade show in Baku later this year.
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