Several dozen multinational companies came together last night to publicly announce the launch of the Multinational Companies Business Group (MCBG). Image Credit: Courtesy: MCBG

Dubai: A new group launched in Dubai on Monday night, bringing together over 30 multinational companies with the objective of assisting the government in shaping its strategy, particularly trade and fiscal policy.

The Multinational Companies Business Group (MCBG) includes firms from sectors such as insurance, automotive, energy, technology, and food and beverage.

“Dubai is increasingly becoming a regional hub, and with that comes the challenge of being able to react quickly to global trends, and to public policy trends,” said the group’s chairman, Ramy Zaki, in an interview on Monday evening.

He listed international trade policy, fiscal policy, product regulations, safety, consumer policy, and digital advertising policy as all areas of concern for the UAE government that the MCBG would try to address.

“The idea is to be able, as a group, to address the government with ideas and knowledge. We believe we have a lot to bring to the table … we want to make Dubai the best place in the world to do business,” Zaki added.

On whether this dialogue with the government would entail hiring lobbyists, essentially professional advocates who argue for specific legislation on behalf of a special interest group, Zaki said that this wouldn’t be the case.

“We do not [plan to hire lobbyists],” Zaki said, adding: “Our objective is not to lobby, per se. Our objective is to share what we know [with the government].”

The chairman said that there was actually a common misunderstanding of the term.

“I think there’s sometimes an underlying misperception about what lobbying is. The government is looking for an interlocutor in the private sector,” he said.

In the past year, the UAE has introduced two new taxes, excise and value added, and a number of new regulations covering sectors such as food, retail, and finance.

Historically, Zaki said, there had not been the need for a dialogue between large multinationals and the government.

“Today, I think this need is here for dialogue to be established in a structured, institutionalised way,” he said.

This belief, he added, had been vindicated by the support and interest from the government for the new association.

“We are already working on a couple of interesting ideas that affect businesses here in Dubai with the government,” Zaki said.

On trade policies, the chairman said that there was a common understanding among MCBG members that free and open trade was beneficial to all.

His comments came in light of a recent study by Bloomberg Economics, which found that a trade war ignited by US President Donald Trump could cost the world $470 billion (Dh1.73 trillion).

Last week, the US slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium from a number of countries, with Trump warning of potentially more levies to come, and other economies promising to respond in kind.

“Every member of the MCBG is a global company, and we are built on the model of exchange and trade. If there’s no trade, we vanish,” Zaki said. “Open trade is crucial for us, and the world, to thrive.”

“A trade war is not what the world needs today,” he added.