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Sanctions take toll on trade flows with UAE

Trade and business links between the UAE and Syria are being squeezed as fighting and sanctions disrupt trade and investment flows.

Trade and business links between the UAE and Syria are being squeezed as fighting and sanctions disrupt trade and investment flows.

Officials expect the flow of goods to falter this year as the UAE complies with Arab League sanctions against Syria.

"If you compare the five countries that witnessed the Arab Spring last year, the most affected country was Libya and the least affected was Syria," said Abdullah Al Saleh, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. "This year, with the resolutions and economic sanctions, and we don't know about the future development, we may see a drop in trade."

The two countries had signed deals to boost ties and investment at the start of last year, only two months before protests flared.

Trade between the two countries had risen from US$259 million (Dh951.3m) in 2005 to about $322m in 2009, with the UAE the largest exporter.

Many UAE companies have already scaled back exports to the country. Dubai Aluminium (Dubal) and Emirates Aluminium (Emal) suspended shipments to Syria last year as the unrest intensified. Syria had accounted for 38 per cent of total exports for the two companies. Syria's Mediterranean port of Latakia allowed aluminium to be shipped into the country via the Suez Canal before it was transported onwards by road elsewhere in the Levant.

The future of UAE property investments in Syria have also been thrown into uncertainty.

Before the turmoil, Syria was viewed as a hot market for property and construction companies.

The biggest project in Syria with ties to the UAE is the Dh1.8 billion Eighth Gate in Yafour, near Damascus. Emaar, a Dubai developer, handed over the first phase of the project in the first half of the year, including 315 office units.

tarnold@thenational.ae

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