Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chambers Image Credit: Supplied

From being the gateway to the Gulf, Dubai has rapidly transformed into the global gateway for trade and investments, and new partnerships with Latin American and Caribbean nations will drive the future of that gateway, according to top officials, ministers and policy experts at the fourth edition of the Global Business Forum Latin America (GBF LATAM) 2022.

The fourth edition of GBF LATAM, organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai, started on Wednesday and brought together dozens of heads of state, ministers, government officials and prominent business leaders from the UAE and Latin America at the Dubai Exhibition Centre.

As one of the world’s fastest growing city economies, Dubai has not only successfully showcased its valuable expertise in key sectors such as logistics, infrastructure, food security, tourism and finance over the past decades, but during the pandemic it elevated its trade and business status globally – enabled by platforms such as Expo 2020 Dubai and consistently supported by Dubai Chamber, delegates heard on the first day of GBF LATAM.

LATAM key market to expand Dubai’s trade

That was one of core reasons behind Latin American and Caribbean economies seeing Dubai and the UAE as the key to unlocking their economic potential, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chambers, said in his welcome address at the Forum on Wednesday, adding that Latin America is a key market that will help Dubai boost its foreign trade to Dh2 trillion within five years.

Dubai’s non-oil imports from Latin America exceeded $6 billion between 2018 and 2020, while data for the first nine months of 2021 showed imports reaching $4.8 billion. Exports from Dubai to Latin America and the Caribbean reached $687 million between January and September 2021.

Al Ghurair said the growing trade figures reflect the emirate’s status as a trading partner for the region and a sign that more companies in the UAE are tapping into trade opportunities across Latin America, with a vast majority targeting Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Chile. He noted that the trend of food imports from the Latin American market dominating the trade volume would continue as the UAE and Latin American countries expand their cooperation on food security and other areas.

Bolsonaro’s appeal for Brazil investors

Food was one of the key pillars of the economic partnership between Latin American countries and the UAE, Brazil President Jair Bolsanaro concurred. Addressing delegates at GBF through a recorded message, Bolsanaro highlighted the spate of reforms that Brazil has undertaken since the pandemic started, with 131 assets worth $150 billion in potential investments moved from the public to the private sector.

He urged UAE companies to invest in Brazil and explore the conducive business climate across a wide variety of economic sectors, with the government committed to fighting soaring inflation. “There is no sustained growth without a strict control over inflation. We have been working with utmost caution to guarantee sustained growth for the future… I am here to reassure all of you: there will be no fiscal irresponsibility with the spending in my government,” Bolsonaro said.

With an investment pipeline of 153 assets worth $60 billion this year, and a focus on renewable resources such as expansion of wind and solar power and support for biofuels, Brazil presented a wealth and diversity of opportunities for sustained growth that no other nation in the region could offer, Bolsanaro said.

GBF forging closer integration with LATAM economies

According to Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chambers, an increasing number of companies from Dubai and the Gulf region were looking to bolster their footprint in LATAM economies, driven by these strong fundamentals. Platforms such as GBF LATAM helped forge better integration between the UAE and Latin America that could potentially drive sustainable economic growth on both sides, he said, speaking at a session titled “Advancing Regional Integration” with Michel Temer, High Counsel of National Studies on Politics of the Sao Paulo State Federation of Industries (FIESP) and former president of Brazil.

“Through decades, Dubai has successfully positioned itself as a global trading centre allowing Latin traders and investors to utilise the top-notch facilities that Dubai is offering. We believe regional integration between countries can bring more appetite for investment. Dubai can connect the Latin American markets and link them with the Asian markets,” he said.

As a destination market for more than 300 million consumers, LATAM marked a huge market for MENA and Dubai offered a world of competitive advantages in connecting businesses from LATAM to wider global opportunities, he said.

Leadership that swiftly adapts to changes

According to Dr. Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, those opportunities also presented themselves in the bilateral trade between the UAE and the Caribbeans, supporting the diversification of both economies. Speaking at a session with Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana, Dr Al Zeyoudi shared the reasons why business confidence in the UAE continued to grow during the pandemic.

“It starts with leadership that listens and adapts to the need of the economy, and carries out the changes and reforms needed. Visitors and tourists start calling Dubai home in a very short period of time – you don’t call a place home unless you have the confidence in it. This confidence is based on the safety, security and equality offered by the UAE – backed by hard and soft infrastructure enablers such as health, education and social life,” he said.

According to President Ali, Guyana has drawn vital lessons from the UAE on how to use its oil wealth for economic diversification. Guyana, which founded its sovereign wealth fund just six years after the discovery of oil, is now paving the way for clean energy transition and focusing on investments in sectors such as manufacturing, trade and agriculture, he said.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, GBF LATAM 2022 is organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Expo 2020.

GBF LATAM 2022 is part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship Global Business Forums series that was launched in 2013. This year’s event bears the theme Towards a Resilient Future and supports Dubai Chamber of Commerce’s flagship Global Business Forum series. GBF LATAM is the last of three Global Business Forums hosted on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai.