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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

How the UAE builds a better future through public diplomacy

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates in New York, writes Majid Al-Suwaidi

Manhattan, New York. The US has a US$19 billion (Dh70 billion) trade surplus with the UAE, its third largest trade surplus globally. AFP
Manhattan, New York. The US has a US$19 billion (Dh70 billion) trade surplus with the UAE, its third largest trade surplus globally. AFP

Driven by our leadership’s commitment to strengthening our US-UAE ties, our consulate in New York has worked hard to serve UAE citizens in the US and engage Americans on the shared interests and common values that bond our two countries together.

As the world faces uncertain times and political and economic instability, our relationship with the US remains stronger and more resilient that ever. Ties between both countries have grown through deep public partnerships with roots in global energy and regional security, and has extended into areas of business, arts and culture.

As we continue to work towards peace and security around the globe, we should not underestimate the power of public diplomacy in cultivating lasting partnerships that have made such a difference in our daily lives. Public diplomacy provides us the opportunity to overcome turmoil by breaking down barriers through economic and cultural exchanges, leading to greater understanding among people and opening doors to new possibilities.

The US and UAE relationship stands as a testament to this philosophy. Through the vision of our leaders, the UAE today has built one of the most advanced nations in the world, one which is reinforced through our diplomatic ties with other countries.

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In fact, the US is among the most important strategic partners for the UAE. Our relationship dates back to our founding in 1971, when the US became one of the first countries to establish formal diplomatic relations with us.

Today, the UAE is the US’s number one trading partner in the Middle East and a key ally on issues ranging from business and the arts to security and counterterrorism

Economic ties between our two countries are a vital pillar of this flourishing relationship. In 2016, US exports to the UAE were more than US$22 billion (Dh81 billion). Moreover, the US has a $19 billion trade surplus with the UAE, its third largest trade surplus globally.

UAE companies like Emirates and Etihad Airways are boosting the US economy. Over the past 10 years, these airlines have purchased $150 billion in aircraft from The Boeing Company, supporting over 780,000 US jobs.

At the heart of this long-term partnership are tireless efforts by UAE leadership and the US administration to promote regional security, economic prosperity and address pressing global issues.

These long-term efforts come to life in public diplomacy initiatives in cities throughout the US, such as New York.

New York is increasingly important as the US-UAE relationship continues to expand. In New York State alone, total exports to the UAE in 2016 amounted to $1.9 billion.

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries, the second-largest semiconductor chip maker in the world, based in Saratoga County, New York, supports more than 7,000 US jobs.

Through the consulate, we have forged new partnerships and engaged the community on a number of fronts.

During the United Nations General Assembly last month, for example, the UAE hosted its inaugural investment forum, convening business and government leaders to discuss the macroeconomic initiatives governments are pursuing to drive inbound foreign investment.

The UAE has also come together with local organisations to positively impact the lives of New Yorkers from every race, religion and creed.

A clear example is the 2017 South Bronx street soccer festival with New York City Football Club. This festival empowered youth though a sport so dear to American and Emirati culture, and built upon the many years of work by the UAE to construct soccer fields in underserved communities around the US.

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From winter coat drives for women and children to meals for the needy, the UAE is a partner to New York City on initiatives that reflect our common values.

Like the US, the UAE is culturally diverse and our economy is thriving. Moderate Islam is celebrated and over 200 nationalities coexist peacefully, making the UAE a model for tolerance and openness in the Middle East region.

As such, thousands of Americans work in and visit the UAE every year. Young Emiratis are studying in US universities and people of both countries are linked through partnerships and exchanges in health, culture, science and education.

New York University Abu Dhabi, for example, is the first comprehensive liberal arts and sciences campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university.

Through regional trips to states like Georgia and Pennsylvania, we have met with Americans from all walks of life who are always open to hearing our story and thinking about ways we can work together to do extraordinary things.

As we look towards the future, we see great opportunity to further enhance collaboration with the US and we are excited about exploring new avenues for cooperation.

Recently, Nasa announced an agreement with the UAE to work together on space and aeronautics research and potentially, a journey to Mars, in support of the UAE’s new space programme.

While the US-UAE relationship remains undeniably strong, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come and celebrate our years of partnership together, which has mutually benefitted both countries for a better future.

After all, that’s what public diplomacy is all about, working together to foster international understanding and improve the lives of people everywhere.

Majid Al-Suwaidi is UAE Consul General in New York

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