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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

UAE looks to Asia-Pacific partners to accelerate foreign trade growth

The region accounted for about 42% of the UAE's non-oil trade in the first nine months of 2018

Abdullah al Saleh, undersecretary of UAE's Ministry of Economy says Asia-Pacific was the UAE's biggest trading partner in the first nine months of 2018. Stephen Lock / The National
Abdullah al Saleh, undersecretary of UAE's Ministry of Economy says Asia-Pacific was the UAE's biggest trading partner in the first nine months of 2018. Stephen Lock / The National

The UAE is increasingly turning to its Asia-Pacific partners to grow foreign trade in the region, which accounted for about 42 per cent of the country’s total non-oil trade in the first nine months of 2018.

The Asia-Pacific region was the biggest trading partner of the Emirates, pushing the country’s total non-oil trade to Dh460.6 billion during the period, Abdullah Al Saleh, the undersecretary of UAE’s Ministry of Economy told Future of Trade conference, jointly held by Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and the Asia House in Dubai yesterday. The country’s total non-oil foreign trade climbed to $330bn (Dh1.2 trillion) with its gross domestic product touching $380bn for the period.

“In our scheme of growing our foreign trade relations, Asia is of prime importance,” Mr Al Saleh said. “The Asian region contributes to more than one-third of global GDP and contributes 37 per cent to global exports as of 2017.”

The UAE, the second-biggest Arabian Gulf economy, in recent years has actively sought to expand its relations with its Asian partners to deepen its trade ties and attract foreign direct investments.

FDI from China, the UAE’s biggest trading partner in Asia, was valued at $9.1bn at the end of 2017, spread across sectors including oil, gas, infrastructure, finance, construction, telecommunications and trade, Mr Al Saleh said. China is already the Emirates’ leading import partner, and non-oil foreign trade between China and the country amounted to $53.3bn in 2017, a figure expected to grow to $70bn by 2020.

“In addition to increasing petrochemical exports to the country, the UAE hopes to become a major trans-shipment centre in China’s logistics corridor,” he said, adding that Dubai’s Jebel Ali port is already a well-established gateway to Europe and Africa for Chinese exports. The free zone is home to more than 230 Chinese companies.

India, the third-largest Asian economy, is also a major economic partner of the UAE. Valued at $180 million a year in the 1970s, the balance of trade volume between India and the UAE is now worth $57bn, making India the second-largest trading partner of the Emirates in the region.

In 2018, Indian investors accounted for 31 FDI projects in Dubai with a total value of Dh3.71bn in capital, making it the second-biggest investor in the emirate in terms of capital invested and the fourth-largest in terms of projects during the first nine months of 2018, Mr Al Saleh said.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of the DMCC, told the conference that the centre, one of the top hubs globally in terms of range of businesses, is looking beyond the headlines to grow and bring companies from around the world.

“If you look at the headlines in the last two years it is all doom and gloom, there are always challenges,” he said.

Hugely improving Dubai's "ease of doing business" has pushed the number of companies that call DMCC home to more than 16,000, and it is pursuing the goal of taking that number to 30,000 by 2030, Mr Bin Sulayem said.

Updated: March 24, 2019 08:26 PM

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