x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

East Asia tour is an indication of strong relations

It’s in the UAE’s strategic interest to broaden its interests from the traditional areas.

The official visit by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Japan and South Korea is a strong indication of the UAE’s foreign policy shift towards east Asia. This realignment was already presaged by Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in a speech at the Crown Prince’s majlis this month saying that the country needs to invest directly in its relations with Asian countries. He also said that a “practical mechanism for boosting ties” was required.

Now the UAE is translating this vision to reality. As The National reported yesterday, Sheikh Mohammed said during his visit to Japan that concrete efforts have been made to strengthen the partnership between the two countries. One sign was the establishment of a joint working committee to liaise on policy topics, including energy, defence, security, healthcare and education.

The shift towards East Asia is more economic than political. But Sheikh Mohammed also discussed another important aspect of the two nations’ relations during his visit to a university in Japan: the investment in Emirati expertise. The partnership between the two countries ought to go beyond financial investment and include investment in Emirati human capital. Having 52 UAE scholarship students currently studying in a number of Japanese universities is a good start. What is needed now is to make sure that in every project, Emiratis are present, learning and contributing.

This is one of the strategic goals of the Tawazun Economic Council, formerly known as the UAE Offset Programme, that creates new ventures for the diversification of the UAE economy by partnering with international contractors in a variety of sectors. These include construction, aircraft leasing, healthcare and education to improve the county’s capabilities and create a skilled base of Emiratis able to build a knowledge-based economy.

All this underscores the critical importance of the UAE’s relationship with east Asian nations, especially given the current state of the western economies.

It’s in the UAE’s strategic interest to broaden its interests from traditional areas, such as the UK’s financial sector. Areas like technology, energy and environment offer many opportunities for the country and its partners in Japan and South Korea.