UAE ranks first in Arab foreign trade: WTO

An aerial view shows Mina Rashid, the man made, commercial port in Dubai EPA



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 USD 265 billion to account for 1.6 percent of the worldwide total in 2015.
The figures were taken from a 2016 report from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the intergovernmental organisation which regulates international trade, unveiled recently at a news conference in Geneva organized by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.
The WTO document further revealed that the UAE had a 31.5 percent share of the Middle East’s total exports in 2015 compared to 28 percent in 2014, as well as 30.8 percent 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 USD 68 billion, representing 1.9 percent of the world total and a 1.5 percent 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 USD 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 specialized 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 liberalization. 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.
Middle East countries along with African and Commonwealth states grew their export volume by 3.9 percent in 2015 – the highest growth rate recorded for country groups. The figure is expected to grow by 0.4 percent in 2016 and 2017. The volume of imports decreased by 3.7 percent in 2015, however, with a further fall of 1.0 percent forecasted in 2016 before recovering by 1.0 percent in 2017.
The WTO report emphasised the importance of differentiating between trade growth in dollars (value) and in volume. Trade declined in terms of value in US dollars in 2015, with total export value decreasing by 13.5 percent to above USD 16 trillion and aggregate import value sliding 12.4 percent.
As for the value of global commodity trading from 2010 to 2015, the report showed that exports achieved modest growth at an average of 5.5 percent. Middle East countries performed the best among the surveyed regions, increasing export values for the period at an average of 9.1 percent. Imports of Middle East countries, the best performers at the regional level, rose at an average of 5.1 percent.
Worldwide service trade exports for 2015 dwindled 6.4 percent from 2014 with a value of USD 4.7 trillion, while average growth from 2010 to 2015 was at 3.8 percent. The total value of 2015 imports, meanwhile, slid 5.4 percent from with 2014 with a value of USD 4.6 trillion dollars. Average growth in service trade imports from 2010 to 2015 was at 4.1 percent.

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