A container ship at Dubai’s Jebel Ali Freezone. It is facilities such as this that make Dubai the region’s distribution hub and why Dubai’s exports and especially re-exports to Iran have increased. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: UN sanctions on Iran have not had a major impact on trade and financial links between the country and Dubai, Saeed Al Awadi, CEO of Dubai Exports, told Gulf News.

Al Awadi said Iran's trading and financial ties continued with Dubai, even in the face of tighter sanctions by the UN Security Council over accusations that it is developing a nuclear bomb.

"While many expected the measures to spell disaster for thousands of Iranian businesses that deal with Dubai — which has built its reputation on its role as the re-export hub for the Gulf — trade between the two countries has grown, according to the latest figures," he said.

The value of direct exports between Dubai and Iran is Dh1.8 billion while re-exports stand at Dh24 billion, according to the latest statistics compiled by Dubai Exports. Iran still ranks as the second largest re-export destination for the UAE, topped only by India.

But Al Awadi said that in the face of continuing political tension in the region, Dubai was looking at expanding into new markets abroad.

Other markets lined up

"I'm sure if the situation continues to get more complicated, in the very near future there will be Plans B and C to find new markets and new trade partners for Dubai. South America, Central Asia and East Africa have important potential," he said.

"Despite India, Saudi Arabia and Iraq all being substantial destinations, with the development of Dubai's logistics sector and infrastructure, Dubai can develop other alternatives further."

Trade between Iran and Dubai has been strong since the early 20th century, when Iranian traders migrated from towns in southern Iran to the emirate.

Today, gold and lubricating oil feature high on the list of exports while rice, textiles and motor parts and accessories have topped the list of re-exports between the two countries.

Al Awadi said all trade between Dubai and Iran was in products which are exempt from the UN sanctions, and include humanitarian assistance, agricultural commodities, food, medicine and other exempted goods. If the sanctions begin to have a greater impact on trade, Al Awadi said Dubai is ready to expand its links with other nations to compensate.

Recently, for example, there have been complaints about obstacles to doing business with Iran due to banking restrictions.

"Dubai's new $10.9 billion (Dh40 billion) Maktoum International Airport, part of Dubai World Central, could cushion the impact of losing Iranian trade," he said.

Dubai Exports also recently sent a mission to generate business opportunities for Dubai-based companies in different markets.

"We visited several countries in South America, Central Asia and East Africa with representatives of over 15 companies to promote their businesses and develop trade deals in these markets," Al Awadi said.

He added that Dubai Exports intends to expand its trade destinations and market share in Europe.

"The next phase of our mission is to target the European markets by exporting Dubai's services in the health, education and logistic, law and financial sectors," he said.

"We visit these markets regularly and try to introduce and promote Dubai-based companies. This mission will not only expand Dubai's export and re-export destinations and diversify trade profile but will also grow its trade overall."