Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, emphasised the importance of forging strong bonds between the public and private sectors, stating that the two sectors have jointly achieved huge success in the economic growth of the country.
“Now, with the changing times, the two sectors can achieve higher success by maintaining economic and commercial vibrancy, she said.
Al Qasimi was speaking to Dubai businessmen and representatives from the private sector during the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry 1st Talk Business at Breakfast networking meeting of the year on Tuesday at the Chamber premises.
She said that the foreign trade sector alone now accounts for around 12.6% of the UAE’s GDP (in current price 2011) while 50.46% of the country’s non-oil foreign trade is conducted with non-Arab Asia, 20.12% with Europe, 12.55% with the Arab countries, 8.77% with the Americas, 5.02% with non-Arab Africa and 3.08% with other countries.
“We are also particularly proud of how we have helped accelerate economic diversification to a point where non-oil activities now account for more than 74.6% of our GDP. Moreover, our trade openness indicator reached a remarkable 167% in 2011; during the same year, we were also among the world’s top 20 exporters and 25th largest importer. We continue to lead exports of strategic global commodities such as gold and aluminium.”
“In order to enhance the UAE’s foreign trade, we continue to participate in trade negotiations with our partners in the GCC region and beyond, push for more strategic economic and commercial co-operative agreements, and fine-tune legal frameworks for economic and commercial cooperation,” said Al Qasimi.
She added, “We concluded Free Trade Agreements with Singapore and the AFTA bloc in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and are now cooperating with the GCC’s negotiating team to conclude other Free Trade Zone agreements with the EU, Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, Korea and the Mercosur bloc comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.”
Replying to queries from the gathered businessmen on the impact of the understudy Companies Law on the country’s economic growth and the soon coming Bankruptcy Law, Al Qasimi pointed out that the approved Companies Law will come with some changes but it will definitely be in favour of the UAE’s business environment while the Bankruptcy Law, which she assured is coming soon, is one of the top priorities with the UAE Government.
In response to another question on the benefits of free trade agreements for the UAE, she said that FTAs are very important for the economic growth of the country as they promote intra-regional trade and facilitate ease of doing business, while they create new job opportunities and open up doors for know-how and technology, informing that the GCC countries have a consensus on the promotion of FTAs in the region.
To another businessman’s query seeking more support from the Ministry of Foreign Trade in new markets of the world, she shed light on the efforts of her Ministry which she said was coordinating with UAE embassies, other ministries and chambers of commerce in promoting international trade.
She also informed about the availability of the Trade Relations Map, a web portal of the Ministry which was launched late in 2011 and contains information, data and indicators covering various global economic, trade and investment issues.
On the question of the Arab Spring’s impact on trade and commerce in the country, Al Qasimi stated that the UAE’s bilateral trade with Arab countries was minimal in comparison to non-Arab nations. In fact, the world-class logistics and infrastructure facilities as well as the hard work of the business community are the engines of the economic growth of the UAE and its undisputed position as a leading trade hub in the region.
She commended the efforts of Dubai Chamber for rallying the public and private sectors together to ‘dream big and achieve even better’ through open communication forums that allow us to come up with a plan that takes us on the path of enduring harmony and prosperity.
On his part, Hamad Buamim, Director General, Dubai Chamber, praised the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Trade in enhancing UAE trade while making the country a strategic trading hub in the region.
Buamim also emphasised on Dubai Chamber’s commitment to strengthening the partnership between the public and private sectors as he said that initiatives like Talk Business at Breakfast stimulate a constructive dialogue and provide a fitting platform for an exchange of ideas on key issues which ultimately help improve the competitiveness of the business community.
He took the opportunity to highlight the latest figures coming out of the trade sector as he said that the Chamber members’ exports and re-exports during January was 13% higher than the same month last year.
This is a strong start to 2013 and a good sign for continued trade growth this year as the business community as a whole is generally optimistic about conditions and confidence for the first quarter, he said.
Buamim added, “According to our recent quarterly business leaders’ survey, expectations of large corporations scored 75% for business condition and 69% for business confidence, with not one leader surveyed expressing negative sentiment.
“At the same time, businesses employing less than 100 staff were more cautious, but still registered 44% for business condition and 55% for business confidence. We are supporting this positive view with our own projections on members’ trade rising in line with last year’s 9% growth,” he said.
On Dubai Chamber’s strategy for 2013, Buamim informed that the Chamber is moving forward with its global expansion as it has set up its first overseas office in Azerbaijan and is in the process of opening a second in Addis Ababa and will then turn its focus to opening an office in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan as Iraq is now the largest non-GCC export destination for Dubai Chamber members.
“Later this year, Dubai Chamber is planning to expand its reach into China, India and Saudi Arabia - all major trade destinations for Dubai and for Dubai Chamber members,” he added.
“In fact, if you add the trade of these three countries together it accounts for 32% of Dubai’s total non-oil trade in 2011, out of almost 250 destinations. This is a significant percentage and one that with our new presence on the ground has the potential to see further gains,” said Buamim.
The Talk Business networking meetings organised by Dubai Chamber from time to time helps build strong alliances, open communication channels with key regional and international trade partners and facilitate networking opportunities for the business