x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

US and UAE hold inaugural trade talks

Government officials from the UAE and US held the first in an ongoing series of discussions focused on economic policy and boosting bilateral trade beyond a record $18.3 billion.

Government officials from the UAE and US held the first in a series of economic meetings to boost bilateral relations, as trade between the countries topped a record US$18.3 billion (Dh67.21bn) last year.

The two sides met in Abu Dhabi for what they have dubbed the inaugural US-UAE Economic Policy Dialogue, which aims to increase trade and address both business opportunities as well as constraints. The UAE is the largest export destination for US goods within the Middle East.

Issues such as finding ways to facilitate cross-border investments and expedite the process for business travel between the UAE and US were discussed, although no firm action plans were shared publicly after what officials said was the first part of an "ongoing" discussion.

"I think what we were missing is what brings us all here today - that is, a forum to try and discuss issues of mutual concern, and just as importantly, areas of cooperation where we believe we can do even better," said Jose Fernandez, the US assistant secretary for economic and business affairs.

Mr Fernandez added the parties "will try and reach concrete actions to go forward".

"Things that we can work on now, and for the next few months … and make sure that this doesn't just become a very nice conversation - but actually yields results."

Other key topics discussed included the UAE not having been eligible to be part of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation an agency that helps US businesses to gain a foothold in emerging markets. Labour rights issues within the UAE were cited for why the country has not been included in the past.

"That was one of the subjects that was addressed, and we will look for ways to improve that," said Michael Corbin, the US ambassador to the UAE, who declined to elaborate further.

Other discussion points included ongoing sanctions against Iran, further protecting the intellectual property rights for the nearly 1,000 US companies located in the UAE and proposed legislation in the Emirates, including the new draft companies act and insolvency law.

"We're working together with the UAE on how those laws can make the UAE even stronger as a place to do business," said Mr Corbin.

"Those are of particular interest to us," he added.

This year, nonstop flights between the UAE and Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as Seattle, Washington, were launched, "marking the opening of another bridge - one that will expand trade, enhance diplomacy, broaden cultural understanding and deepen the friendship that binds our countries - and our communities - even closer together", said Khalid Al Ghaith, the assistant UAE foreign minister for economic affairs.

nparmar@thenational.ae