Demand for Israeli medicines in the UK helped take bilateral trade between the two countries to a record high in the last calendar year.
Around £1.1 billion worth of Israeli-produced pharmaceuticals arrived in this country between January and December 2012, as British patients benefited from Israeli advancements, including drugs for Parkinson’s disease, such as Azilect, developed by Technion scientists, and from cheaper generic versions of drugs produced by Teva.
The boom in medical trade from Israel to the UK — up 11 per cent on 2011, and representing half of Israel’s exports to the UK — could be felt across Europe in the coming years, following a European Union vote in October which has finally ended a trade block on Israeli medicines.
In total, two-way trade reached more than £3.81 billion by the end of 2012, as compared with the £3.7 billion recorded for the previous year and on track for UK Trade and Investment’s target of topping £4 billion by the middle of the decade.
According to figures from that British body, although trade from the UK to Israel fell slightly, imports in the reverse direction grew by 6.6 per cent from 2011 to 2012, representing a total of more than £2.3 billion.
Israel is one of the top 20 countries investing in the UK, with its investments exceeding those of Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Other Israeli goods popular with Britons included fruit and vegetables, which accounted for £82 million worth of trade, and coffee, tea and spices, with £3 million worth exported from Israel to the UK in the last year.
Israel remains the UK’s largest individual trading partner in the near East and North Africa, and is this country’s 29th biggest export market.
Popular with Israelis in the last year were British cars, with £130 million worth of automotive goods, including tractors used on kibbutzim, exported from the UK to Israel, along with £70 million worth of industrial machinery and nearly £20 million worth of iron and steel — an 85 per cent increase on 2011.
Non-metallic mineral manufactures (an unappealing-sounding category perhaps but one which includes diamonds, traditionally a cornerstone of Israeli industry) accounted for £244 million worth of exports from Israel to the UK, a jump of 26 per cent on the previous year.
The UK ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, hailed “tremendous progress” in trade links. “The British government has made it a priority to build economic relations with Israel. My team is pursuing an ambitious agenda of partnership in science, tech and higher education, but there are many other possibilities in the relationship still largely untapped.”
He pointed to Israel’s oil and gas sector as one such area; this week trade possibilities for the sector have been discussed by a British delegation to Israel, led by Lord Green.
“These partnerships are good for Britain, good for Israel, and good for the relationship between the countries.”
Daniel Seal, chief executive of UK-Israel Business, said the figures showed trade between the two to be in a healthy state, adding that, for Israel, the UK could be a gateway to Europe.
“The interesting thing is how the UK has moved to become one of Israel’s largest trading partners,” he said. “It is strength all round. It is becoming more of a strategic partnership.”