Middle East report: Conclusion

The first few years following the Millennium have proved to be a turning point in the relationship between the Middle East and the rest of the world. Oil prices were rising, and would continue to rise for the following eight years. The Gulf nations wanted to invest their petrodollars in a vast array of businesses and assets around the world, to welcome international companies to their shores, to improve infrastructure, to import skills and technology, and to bring their societies up to the standard of living that they had long experienced when travelling in the West.

To achieve this, Sovereign Wealth Funds were established to seek out investment opportunities, hugely ambitious building projects were launched and new channels were created for trade and partnership across the region.

From its inception, several Middle Eastern nations were members of the World Trade Organisation, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. Oman and Jordan followed in 2000. But it was not until 2005 that the largest and most powerful state in the region, Saudi Arabia, gained full accession.

At this point, the balance of power between the old, insular, restrictive and secretive business practices and the new, open, mutually cooperative ways of conducting business underwent a decisive shift. Inward investment was not only tolerated, it was encouraged and even sought after. SWFs became serious players in the world of high finance, in global real estate and in keeping the wheels of the world's industry turning.

All of these trends and shifts are borne out in this document, underlining the fundamental change that has taken place in the region. There remain serious challenges for any company seeking to do business in the Middle East, but the readiness to overcome these challenges and to find middle ground, to adopt internationally agreed trading practices and legislative norms, is unrecognisable from previous generations.