Abu Dhabi's regulator of product quality said it had pulled 10,000 products, from appliances to toys to cosmetics, off store shelves since its inception three years ago.
Formally known as the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council, the agency is now hoping to expand its reach to serve semi-government and private entities, and is hosting its inaugural conference this week.
"Testing is the backbone for any economy," said Anas Al Barguthi, the council's executive director of consumer and market services. "If you are an exporting country, an import country will test the products. We import more than we export. Testing these goods makes the economy more protected and more competitive."
Abu Dhabi imported Dh35.16 billion of goods in the fourth quarter of last year, the latest figures from the emirate's statistics centre show, down Dh5.88bn from a year earlier.
To better cope with the torrent of imports, the emirate's Executive Council decided in 2010 to merge the testing facilities of Abu Dhabi's regulators under the aegis of the council.
"Right now we are involved in food, water and construction material. We just expanded into a fourth [area], pharmaceuticals, to enable the health authority to benefit from testing services in Abu Dhabi," Mr Al Barguthi said in an interview. "We are also going into other areas, such as medical devices and electrical high voltage products."
The council is hosting its inaugural conference today and tomorrow at Jumeirah Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. Scheduled speakers include Homaid Al Shemmari, executive director of Mubadala Aerospace.
"We want this to serve as a platform through which we launch collectively a quality journey, to start a dialogue to identify opportunities and milestones," Mr Al Barguthi said. "We want to talk about a commitment."
Policymakers hope that the council will play a key role in Abu Dhabi's 2030 development plan, as the non-oil economy expands amid an increase in manufacturing. Mr Al Barguthi would like "Made in Abu Dhabi" to someday carry the same weight with global consumers as "Made in South Korea" or "Made in Germany" does today.
The council has formed a partnership with London-based Intertek, a product-inspection giant with more than 35,000 workers and roots in the 19th century, that enables the council to plug into thousands of testing labs worldwide.
Looking ahead, the council wants to tap into private sector demand for testing.
"The private sector enjoys very limited access to testing infrastructure in Abu Dhabi," Al Barguthi said. "If you are an importer or distributor, you want to buy a sample to determine your investment decision before you begin to distribute that product in the market. We want to serve that niche."