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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

UAE, US discuss transport and infrastructure co-operation

From driverless cars and drones to furthering aviation ties

Etihad Airways is one of the largest purchasers of US company, Boeing, aircraft. Ted S. Warren / AP
Etihad Airways is one of the largest purchasers of US company, Boeing, aircraft. Ted S. Warren / AP

The UAE is interested in tapping the US to beef up its infrastructure projects, including driverless vehicles and drones, while solidifying the UAE’s role in the American aviation sector.

This week the UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, met with the US transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, to discuss increasing bilateral economic ties, according to the UAE embassy in Washington.

The embassy released a statement that said both sides “explored opportunities for collaboration on infrastructure projects as well as new transportation technology, including autonomous vehicles and drones”.

Mr Al Otaiba highlighted the mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries’ aviation sectors, with the UAE in particularly playing an important role in supporting US jobs. Etihad Airways is one of the largest purchasers of the latest model of the US firm, Boeing’s Dreamliner, buying 30 787-10s.

However, airlines from the UAE have been facing opposition from US legacy carriers, who are attempting to roll-back a 1999 Open Skies agreement in what many view as protectionist. Yet the US state department said that such agreements were pivotal for the global aviation market, which has “dramatically expanded the number of direct international connections to cities like Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orlando, Portland, and Salt Lake City”.

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In a letter to secretary of state Rex Tillerson, US Travel president and chief executive Roger Dow said that the Big Three’s campaign, referring to American, Delta and United airlines, was not aimed at fair competition. “Instead, they are lobbying for government intrusion that would benefit themselves, but hurt American manufacturing jobs,” he said.

Middle East carriers have placed nearly 530 orders for Boeing planes, which could have been put toward other manufacturers such as France’s Airbus. “That translates to 930,000 US jobs up and down the supply chain, supported by those plane orders alone,” the US Travel Association said in a statement earlier this month.

Bilateral trade between the UAE and US reached US$26 billion last year, holding steady the UAE’s place as the largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa region since 2009. The embassy said that aircraft is one of the top categories of exports.