x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ministry of Foreign Trade remit shifts to Ministry of Economy

Officials hope to accelerate faster the UAE's export growth and striking of trade deals by shifting the remit of the Ministry of Foreign Trade to the Ministry of Economy.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Development and International Cooperation, has nine years of experience in cooperating with international governments. Antonie Robertson / The National
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Development and International Cooperation, has nine years of experience in cooperating with international governments. Antonie Robertson / The National

Officials hope to accelerate the UAE's export growth and striking of trade deals by shifting the remit of the Ministry of Foreign Trade (Moft) to the Ministry of Economy.

The shake-up follows a Cabinet reshuffle by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in which Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the former Minister of Foreign Trade, was appointed as Minister of Development and International Cooperation.

Duties carried out by her former ministry will pass to the Ministry of Economy. The latter was in charge of foreign trade issues until the Moft was created in 2008.

But employees are still awaiting confirmation of whether they will become part of the Ministry of Economy or shift to Sheikha Lubna's new ministry. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

"The aim is better coordination between the two sectors at a local and international level and to further improve exports and trade agreements," said Juma Al Kait, the assistant undersecretary for foreign trade affairs at Moft.

Since its inception, Moft has played a significant role in diversifying the country's trade footprint away from hydrocarbons. It has organised trade missions and supported companies seeking to begin exporting.

But its work has threatened to overlap with the Ministry of Economy at times. Both work on issues relating to the World Trade Organisation and anti-dumping. Both have organised overseas missions to forge export growth.

"At the moment there's not been much coordination although we've worked together on similar issues," said an official at the Ministry of Economy, who asked to remain anonymous.

For the Ministry of Economy, the shake-up will further expand the responsibility of what is already one of the largest arms of the government.

"We have already had responsibility for industry passed to us from the Ministry of Finance," said another official at the Ministry of Economy, who also asked to remain anonymous.

Exact details of the Ministry of Development and International Cooperation duties have yet to be announced. But officials hope to harness Sheikha Lubna's growing international profile to promote the UAE's interests abroad.

She has already gained experience cooperating with international governments during her nine years in Government.

In 2004, she became the nation's first woman to take a position in the Cabinet, when she was appointed to the newly merged economy and planning portfolio.

She took over the Ministry of Foreign Trade upon its creation in 2008.

Under her watch, the ministry has helped to stimulate the country's non-oil trade, despite the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. Non-oil exports rose by 61 per cent to Dh135.7 billion (US$36.94bn) in the first nine months of last year, compared to the same period the previous year.

Sheikha Lubna has also become a member of the boards of several companies and authorities. She is deputy chairman of the board of directors of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) and she also led the board of directors of the UAE's Securities & Commodities Authority, the market regulator.

 

tarnold@thenational.ae