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UK to be 'Islamic finance gateway'
13/06/06
London has the potential to be the financial centre of choice for emerging markets from India and China to eastern Europe and the Muslim world, Chancellor Gordon Brown said.

Mr Brown spelt out his three-point plan to make the UK "the gateway to Islamic finance and trade" in a speech to the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference in London, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Chancellor pointed to tax and regulatory reforms already under way to support the development of a financial framework compliant with Islamic sharia law.

He laid out plans to boost British trade with the Muslim world, where the UK is already the largest European investor in many countries and has seen trade with Arab countries grow 60% in the past five years.

And he promised to work to break the deadlock at the World Trade Organisation on talks designed to offer fairer trading conditions to developing countries, including many Muslim states.

"It is (the) entrepreneurial vibrancy and dynamism of Britain's Muslims, combined with Britain's openness to the world and the historic ties I have detailed with Muslim countries, that makes the ambition you have set for yourselves with this conference - to make Britain the gateway to Islamic finance and trade - a realistic and realisable ambition, one I believe Britain is well placed to realise," said Mr Brown.

The Islamic world was just one of a number of emerging economies where London-based financial services companies could expect to win business, he suggested.

"Our unique qualities - our language and geography, our stability and openness to the world, our inventiveness and flexibility - have given the City of London its historic advantage, the first mover advantage, of already being, along with New York, the leading global financial centre for established markets," he said.

"Now, by showing the same qualities, London can be the location of choice for emerging markets - from India and China to eastern Europe and the Middle East and Muslim countries all over the world."

The Muslim Council of Britain wants the conference "to showcase the UK as the gateway for trade with Muslim countries and to promote London as a key centre for Islamic finance".

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