x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE trade with Australia to reach all-time high

Surging demand for live sheep and cars will help propel Australian exports to the UAE to a record peak of more than A$2 billion this year.

The country has to depend on trade partners such as Australia for its food supply so it can feed its growing population. Randi Sokoloff / The National
The country has to depend on trade partners such as Australia for its food supply so it can feed its growing population. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Surging demand for live sheep and cars should help to propel Australian exports to the UAE to a record of more than A$2 billion (Dh7.22bn) this year.

Meanwhile, a dozen Australian companies are conducting a business mission to the UAE and the rest of the GCC in a bid to develop closer investment ties.

"We will have a record year in exports to the UAE this year. This represents a growing closeness of Australia to the region and an economic pick-up in the region," said Peter Costello, a former Australian treasurer who is jointly heading the delegation with the former prime minister Bob Hawke.

The value of Australian exports to the UAE surpassed A$1bn in the first half of this year, with demand particularly strong for two of the country's main exports, livestock and cars.

With the UAE unable to produce enough food for its growing population, it is heavily reliant on exporters of agricultural goods such as Australia.

Australia builds and exports Toyotas, and transport authorities in the Emirates buy large numbers of the cars for their taxi fleets.

Bilateral trade between the UAE and Australia was worth more than A$4.2bn last year. The UAE was the largest market for Australian goods in the Gulf, importing A$2.1bn of goods. Crude oil made up the bulk of the UAE's A$2.1bn of exports Down Under.

Telstra, the largest provider of telephone and internet services in Australia, and Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Bank, the country's fourth-largest lender, are among the 12 companies touring the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with the Australia Gulf Council (AGC).

While Telstra has yet to establish a presence in the region, ANZ Bank has a representative office in the UAE.

"There's a lot of commercial opportunities in the region," said Michael Yabsley, the AGC chief executive. "Follow-up meetings are needed to pursue those openings."

Australia is keen to do business in a wider array of sectors in the Gulf. A slowdown in the construction sector, especially in Dubai, prompted some smaller Australian companies to withdraw, Mr Costello said. But other companies, such as the construction firm Leighton Holdings and the professional services firm WorleyParsons, are expanding in the region.

As a board member of Australia's sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, Mr Costello also met representatives of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Mubadala Development, two of the emirate's investment vehicles.

The parties discussed good governance practices as part of the Santiago Principles, a code of conduct agreed to by global investment funds.

"The Future Fund sources investment outside Australia in property and infrastructure, and ADIA has investments in property and infrastructure in Australia," Mr Costello said.

"There's good opportunities in Australia for sovereign wealth funds because Australia has performed very well over the past two decades and recently outperformed other developed countries like the UK and the US."

Last month, ADIA joined Australian and US funds to buy the Port of Brisbane from Australia's Queensland government for A$2.1bn.

 

tarnold@thenational.ae