x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE and US begin defence trade mission

Participants say the mission offers US contractors an opening into a growing market, while allowing the UAE a chance to improve its security and, ultimately, self-sufficiency.

Sheikha Lubna al Qassimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, says the mission will help create a
Sheikha Lubna al Qassimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, says the mission will help create a "measure of self-sufficiency". Stephen Lock / The National

ABU DHABI // The first US-UAE defence trade mission was launched yesterday in the capital. Participants say the mission offers US contractors an opening into a growing market, while allowing the UAE a chance to improve its security and, ultimately, self-sufficiency. The UAE and the US are "reliable allies with shared security and economic interests", said Sheikha Lubna al Qassimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, who opened the trade mission.

Sheikha Lubna said the mission could help the UAE become a player in the manufacture and supply of military hardware to the Gulf and beyond. It would help create a "measure of self-sufficiency and capability at home" as well as a "stronger and safer future". US naval vessels visit more UAE ports than any other foreign ports in the world, Sheikha Lubna said. The UAE is the United States' largest export market in the Middle East and bilateral trade amounted to US$12 billion (Dh 44bn)in 2009.

In addition to top-tier manufacturers such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, the visiting delegation includes a large number of smaller subcontractors that have never done business in the UAE. In all, more than 50 US companies are being represented. "We want our allies and friends here to have training and capability," said retired Lt Gen Lawrence Farrell, the head of the National Defense Industrial Association and co-leader of the delegation.

Mr Farrell said the UAE, which has a central location allowing the shipping of hardware globally, represented a "burgeoning opportunity" with increased pressure on defence spending in the US. In addition, the UAE is looking to educate and train its own workforce, making it "inevitable" that the UAE will eventually export technology, he said. The process could also make it easier for the UAE to acquire technologies that are not commonly brought to the region, such as night vision equipment and technology that makes it easier for defence systems to communicate.

The UAE could build and finance infrastructure while the US firms could provide the industrial know-how. It is unclear how much would be spent on defence over the next few years. Still, there is a huge appetite for air defence systems for instance, said Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council. A local defence industry would help make the supply of military equipment more reliable, he said.

kshaheen@thenational.ae