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WTO ranks UAE first in Arab Foreign trade

The United Arab Emirates remains one of the world’s top trading economies, ranking 20th globally and first in the Middle East and Africa in commodity exports. It also placed 19th internationally in commodity imports and led the MENA region in overall commodity trade, with regional exports totalling US$265 billion to account for 1.6 per cent of the worldwide total in 2015.

The figures were taken from a 2016 report from the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the intergovernmental organisation which regulates international trade, unveiled recently at a news conference in Geneva organised by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.

The WTO document further revealed that the UAE had a 31.5 per cent share of the Middle East’s total exports in 2015 compared to 28 per cent in 2014, as well as 30.8 per cent of the region’s total imports. In terms of service trade, the country ranked 20th globally and first in the Arab World with service imports worth US$ 68 billion, representing 1.9 per cent of the world total and a 1.5 per cent improvement over 2014.

The UAE further strengthened its economic ties with the European Union last year, ranking 13th globally as the bloc’s trade partner. It advanced one rank over 2014 to 24th internationally and led the Gulf region in service exports to the EU at US$19 billion.

Commenting on the favourable results of the WTO report, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, said that the top rankings affirm the UAE’s growing importance in international trade. He noted that the figures reflect the UAE’s success in occupying a strong standing in global business, adding that the coming years will see even more prosperity not only in commodities and services but in all other areas of trade as well.

He pointed to the country’s hosting of the Expo 2020 Dubai and upcoming major projects such as the ‘Dubai Wholesale City’ development launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to increase country’s share of global wholesale trade as bases for the UAE’s bright trade outlook. These, he said, mirror a firm commitment to further diversifying the national economy away from oil and towards other promising economic sectors such as foreign trade.

Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade and Industry, added that nationwide efforts led by federal and local authorities to further develop non-oil exports; international trade, economic and technical cooperation agreements and special free trade arrangements with the GCC; and WTO-sanctioned agreements on trade facilitation and specialised exhibitions directly related to the UAE’s commercial sector will all advance the growth of foreign trade, especially in terms of re-exports.

He further noted that the UAE’s trade policy is based on economic openness and trade liberalisation. He stated that the country has emerged as the Arab World’s commercial hub due to its advanced infrastructure, strategic geographical location, and sophisticated air, sea and land ports. He also cited economic and political stability, diversified investment opportunities, robust economic legislation, exceptional re-exporting capabilities, and investor-friendly free zones among the major factors driving rapid growth in the UAE’s non-oil trade.

The Undersecretary referred to the UAE’s intensive efforts over the past years to further open up its economy to foreign trade and investment in order to introduce more growth opportunities and improve the welfare of its people. He shared that the UAE joined the WTO in 1996, undergoing the first review of its trade policy as a member in April of 2006, followed by a second review in March 2012 at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. A third review will be conducted from 1 to 3 June 2016.

The 2016 WTO report forecasts the slow growth in global commodities trading to continue in the coming months, ending with a 2.8 per cent increase over 2015 at best by year-end based on current global demand. The growth of imports of developed countries coupled with demand for imported goods from Asia’s developing economies can help raise the volume of international trade. Global commodity trading is expected to rise by 3.6 per cent by 2017; the average has not exceeded 5 per cent since 1990. These forecasts are based on the projected real GDP growth of 2.4 per cent in 2016 and 2.7 per cent in 2017.

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