x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE holds its own Republican vs Democrat debate

The American Chamber of Commerce in Abu Dhabi co-hosted a debate this week on the upcoming US election and its implications on the Middle East.

ABU DHABI // While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney slept off their second presidential debate, the UAE had one of its own, albeit with a little less intensity.

At Abu Dhabi's Fairmont Bab Al Bahr on Wednesday evening, a select audience attended a debate on the upcoming US election and the effect its outcome will have on the Middle East.

The American Chamber of Commerce Abu Dhabi co-hosted the debate with the international law firm SNR Denton.

Michael McNamara, the US managing partner of the firm, and Fred McClure, a member of its public policy and regulation practice, spent an hour extolling the virtues of a Democratic or Republican win.

The debate was moderated by Adam Ramey, the assistant professor of political science at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Mr McNamara and Mr McClure had previously squared off in Riyadh and Doha, with the score being one win each.

Whatever the outcome of the election, which will be held on November 6, trade relations between the US and UAE will continue to be of great importance, Mr McNamara said.

"I think, in many respects, the continuity of US administration will continue the continuity of policy," he said. "There will be changes and adjustments based on new circumstances that will unfold.

"[We had an almost] US$16 billion [Dh58.76bn] trade relationship with the UAE last year.

"That's meaningful at a time when this administration, or if there were a change, would be focused on economic recovery in the US.

"Developing every avenue to trade is going to be critical to our continued recovery."

In the first five months of this year US exports to the UAE jumped by more than half, and there are almost 1,000 American companies with bases here.

US exports to the UAE reached $15.9bn last year, up more than one third from 2010.

Last week, the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, met the Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to discuss ways to further strengthen ties between the two countries.

With regards to international sanctions in place on Iran, Mr McClure said voters should not be surprised to see the Democrats and Republicans adopting much the same long-term stance.

"Governor Romney has indicated his view on Iran and he would seek to … make sure that Tehran knows that we're going to do everything we can with our allies to make sure that they don't get nuclear weapons," he said.

"On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if a re-elected President Obama might not end up in the same position as opposed to where he is now, and holding back just a little bit."

Mr McNamara and Mr McClure lightly mocked each other, at times calling each others' arguments weak and futile, and referring to each party's foreign policy plans as being akin to cowboy diplomacy, much to the entertainment of the audience.

But unlike the race for the White House no winner was declared at the more amicable Abu Dhabi debate.

zalhassani@thenational.ae