More than 200 leading business executives, entrepreneurs, academics, thought leaders and government officials participated in Abu Dhabi for the 9th AmCham Annual Roundtable Summit to discuss business opportunities and challenges in Abu Dhabi.
The Summit, hosted by AmCham Abu Dhabi Roundtables Committee Chairman Brian Lott, began with a plenary session featuring Noura Bint Mohammad Al Ka’abi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development; Barbara A. Leaf, US Ambassador to the UAE; John Defterios, Emerging Markets Editor and Anchor, CNN; and Sharief Fahmy, Chairman of the AmCham Abu Dhabi Board of Directors.
During her keynote interview with Brian Lott, Noura Al Ka’abi, former Minister for Federal National Council Affairs, discussed a wide range of issues including her role as the key link and facilitator between the Cabinet and Federal National Council, being an advocate for youth and female involvement and participation, and the UAE’s long term goals and planning as it relates to its vision.
Regarding the creative sector, Al Ka’abi noted “For us, it has always been about changing the culture and enforcing that change so that we can have a sustainable creative sector, unlike the oil and trade sector. The creative sector will enrich what is going on in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, especially with having The Louvre opening soon and with the partnership of institutes such as New York University Abu Dhabi, that also assist us in shaping a sustainable sector.’’
Al Ka’abi also discussed the important role of engaging youth. “In my job in the ministry, one of the things that I look at is our social media. I look to see if our channels are being productive, if they are delivering a clear message, how can we make it better and how can we include the youth to participate.”
Other topics discussed included Al Ka’abi’s recent appointment as Head of the Media and Marketing Committee to the Special Olympics, which will be held in Abu Dhabi. “Having the Special Olympics in 2019 is something that will help Abu Dhabi and the region understand what being inclusive is,” said Al Ka’abi. “It has been an honour for us to be chosen. We will have committees looking at how the Special Olympics cannot only be a great event but also how we can leave a legacy behind.”
US Ambassador to the UAE Barbara Leaf addressed the crowd and discussed the growing US-UAE relationship. “During the three years that I have been Ambassador, the US-UAE relationship has deepened politically, militarily, culturally, and of course, commercially,” said Ambassador Leaf. “You should all be proud of the role you have played in this regard. While it is a turbulent time globally, the positive relationships you all have forged and continue to nurture undergird the robust UAE-US commercial relationship.”
“With over $25 billion in two-way trade, the UAE is America’s largest export destination in the Arab World. The UAE is now America’s largest source of foreign investment from the Arab World. While these trade statistics are impressive, what I find more impressive is the depth and breadth of the relationship. The UAE currently trades with all 50 states, and this trade creates ties and binds across numerous sectors. More than 1,500 US firms currently have operations in the UAE, and over 60,000 Americans live and work here.”
Ambassador Leaf also highlighted the importance of the open dialogue between business and government. “AmCham’s sector committees are reflective of this depth and breadth; today the committees are meeting on everything from health to construction, to education and defence. Our participation in the sector committee meetings and at AmCham events throughout the year allow us to get past talking points and headlines and truly understand the business environment that American companies face, and to represent your interest in our meetings and activities.”
The spotlight Q&A session with John Defterios, CNN Emerging Markets Editor and Anchor, featured an interactive video presentation highlighting the economics of the region as part of the new Silk Route, the growing economic and stronger political alliance with Saudi Arabia as well as developments in the energy sector. One important product of the close relationship between the US and UAE is the 1-2-3 agreement on nuclear energy.
“Strategically the UAE built up so much trust in the US role with the 1-2-3 agreement on nuclear energy. The US was the first signatory to say that they trust that the UAE will not enrich beyond nuclear energy. This is a phenomenal level of trust between the two countries,” said John Defterios. “I see the UAE as a great connector, not just by the airline industry itself but by the level of port trade that comes to the UAE. Two-thirds of the cargo traffic that comes to the Middle East and North Africa comes through the UAE. That cannot be surpassed anymore, that is such a locked-in facility.”
John Defterios also discussed the importance of trade with Asia. “Oil is rising 1.4 million barrels a day in terms of fresh demands and that is still very robust, much higher than most people thought. The reason is that 1 million of that demand is coming from Asia, and the three pillars of that are China, Japan and South Korea.”