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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Passport power lifts UAE influence

Recent agreements that will add Brazil and Argentina to the list come at a time when the UAE is expanding diplomatic efforts and economic opportunities.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with Brazil’s foreign minister Aloysio Nunes in Brasilia last month. AP Photo
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with Brazil’s foreign minister Aloysio Nunes in Brasilia last month. AP Photo

ABU DHABI // An increasingly powerful Emirati passport that grants its citizens visa-free travel to 121 countries is a reflection of the growing role the country is playing on the world stage.

Recent agreements that will add Brazil and Argentina to the list come at a time when the UAE is expanding diplomatic efforts and economic opportunities.

“There is no doubt that promoting the UAE passport strength would enhance the UAE’s position at regional and global levels,” said Ahmed Al Daheri, assistant undersecretary for consular affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The ministry recently started to further enhance the power of the UAE passport to allow Emiratis visa-free travel in as many countries as possible, with plans to sign deals with another 18 countries this year alone.

The more agreements the UAE reaches, the more keen other countries will be to establish closer ties with the Emirates, Mr Al Daheri said.

The UAE passport is currently the most valuable in the GCC, according to a global ranking of the world’s passports.

Arton Capital, a financial advisory firm specialising in investor programmes for residence and citizenship, ranked the Emirati passport 28th in the world, with a score of 125. Removing the obstacle of citizens having to ­obtain a visa would help to improve political, economic, social and cultural ties with countries, Mr Al Daheri said.

“Such agreements will free citizens of both parties to travel freely to each other’s countries and do business, thus increasing the volume of trade and business exchanges, and leading to strengthening relations between the two sides.”

Mr Al Daheri said young Emiratis in particular had contributed to furthering the ministry’s achievements.

While the visa-exemption policy has benefited UAE citizens in removing obstacles in their pursuit of enriching themselves through the experiencing other countries cultures, customs, and traditions through tourism, education and training abroad, Mr Al Daheri said young Emiratis had contributed to furthering the Ministry’s achievements.Their travels across the globe for education or economic reasons have further encouraged diplomatic efforts to ease their experiences and enable them to better achieve their goals, he said.

“The confidence of the wise leadership in the UAE youth has made them a pioneering model for ambitious and responsible youth, which reflects a positive image in all countries of the world,” Mr Al Daheri said.

An Emirati who travels frequently said he had noticed a significant difference in the ease of travel since his journeys abroad began more than 15 years ago.

“The process of obtaining visas used to be a huge barrier in heading to countries,” said 35-year-old Yaser Albehdaz, who has scaled two of the seven highest continental peaks.

“With work you would only get a few days off and you would have to take some of those just to get the visa,” he said.

Mr Albehdaz said the process was discouraging but now he said there was one less barrier to achieving his dream of scaling all seven summits.

UAE’s recent diplomacy efforts have centred around strengthening ties with South and Central American countries, with official visits by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and the opening of embassies and consulates in Brazil, Argentina and Cuba.

Brazil has recently strengthened its economic ties with the UAE and other Arab countries.

Non-oil trade between the UAE and Brazil was US$2.5 billion (Dh9.181bn) last year, while exports of Brazilian textiles to the region surged by 87.5 per cent during the first two months of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae