Dubai: The UAE will introduce a new law allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies in some sectors outside free trade zones in six months, Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri said.
"We are expecting to finish the law within six months," Al Mansouri told reporters.
Foreigners will be able to take full ownership of onshore companies in sectors in which the country needs foreign investment.
"We will allow 100 per cent foreign ownership wherever it helps the economy," Al Mansouri said, without providing details.
The UAE has been working on a revised Companies Law for more than two years in order to conclude free trade agreements with key countries and attract more foreign investment.
Al Mansouri's predecessor Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi said last year that the UAE could allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies in the services sector, healthcare and education. At present, foreigners are allowed full ownership of businesses in special free-trade zones that have been created by different emirates.
In another initiative, the Economy Ministry is looking at setting up a strategic stockpile of key agricultural commodities that will hold sufficient supplies for six months, Al Mansouri said.
"The study should be finished in six months," he said. The minister said the idea of a food reserve was raised by the Federal National Council.
The strategic reserve will consist of 15 "most essential" food items.
Al Mansouri said the government will be able to use the food reserve as a contingency, and provide price stability in the kind of situation "we are in right now".
"We have to be realistic. We are an importing nation when it comes to food. We have our limitations in terms of agricultural resources," he said.
The UAE has achieved 90 per cent self-sufficiency in dairy products and grows a significant proportion of vegetables.
Food prices have been rising amid relentless global inflation in commodity prices. The minister said "a very large chunk" of local inflation is due to external factors. Inflation is believed to be in double-digit percentages.
Al Mansouri said the ministry is still analysing data to arrive at the inflation figure for 2007. The process could take up to 45 days to complete, he said.
Businesses in the UAE have blamed the US dollar's decline for making imports more expensive.