Stock - UAE Economy
Mixing the best of digital capabilities with robust trade and manufacturing possibilities - this is the recipe the UAE is working on for a qualitative boost to its trade. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Full-scale economic agreements with India, the UK and Israel will be the building blocks the UAE will use to get closer to its stated aim of doubling its total trade in the next 10 years.

The federal government has started on comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with India, Indonesia, Turkey, the UK, Israel, Kenya, South Korea and Ethiopia. “These countries account for 10 per cent of global trade and 60 per cent of the worldwide population,” said Saed Al Awadi, CEO of Dubai Industries and Exports.

Any such deal will be decisive in opening up new opportunities, whether it is to build on existing volumes – as is the case with the UK and India – or go bigger with a new partner such as Israel. (The UAE's non-oil trade was valued at Dh1.4 trillion in 2020.)

Dubai too is moving on a similar parallel track when it comes to trade, the official added. “At the Dubai level, the emirate has implemented the T2 initiative, which seeks to double the volume of trade from 2020 to 2025,” said Al Awadi. “The aim is that Dubai’s total trade will reach Dh2 trillion.

“The emirate has launched several initiatives that seek to increase the competitiveness of the exports as well as ease of doing business. Dubai has also launched the World Logistics Passport (WLP) designed to smooth the flow of global trade, unlock market access through the creation of new trade routes, and provides economic efficiencies to members.”

“The WLP overcomes non-tariff trade barriers through the offering of financial and non-financial benefits such as fast-tracking of cargo movement, reducing administrative costs, advancing cargo information and facilitating trade across borders.”

Stock - Saed Al Awadi, CEO of Dubai Exports
Saed Al Awadi, CEO of Dubai Exports: "These initiatives support each other due to their overlap - but they also seek to ensure the UAE becomes a location for advanced sustainable manufacturing..." Image Credit: Supplied

Get the ‘passport’

A direct initiative from Dubai, the World Logistics Passport is managed by DP World, the ports and terminals operator. Multiple countries have signed on already for a process that promises to smooth out the flow of goods from one country to another. Governments, logistics businesses and anyone connected with supply chain management can enroll for the programme.

“The role of technology is undeniably important for cross-border partnerships that can be formulated virtually,” said Al Awadi. “Historically, companies had to attend trade exhibitions and then schedule follow up meetings. Technology has changed this and counterparties can be identified using a host of websites.

“Virtual trade exhibitions substantially reduce the costs of participation and allow micro and small firms to easily identify global partners. The UAE has developed online tools such as and that allow companies of all sizes to cheaply, easily and readily access global markets.

“One needs to note that with one of the best logistics infrastructures, the country will surely be a regional technology trade centre.”

Timely intervention
Last year, the Dubai Free Zones Council initiated a programme of reduction and postponing rent payments by six months after the pandemic hit. This move by the free zones "sought to reduce the short term working capital needs of firms, returning security deposits and guarantees to increase non-bank liquidity, cancelling fines for both companies and individuals to allow for greater short-term finance, and relaxing labour laws so that temporary contracts that allow the free movement of labour between companies can be created," said Saed Al Awadi.

A dual project

Along with the onus on trade, the UAE is going at full throttle on expanding the industrial base. Sure, the country has state-of-the-art industrial assets in the energy sector, including renewables, as well as in aluminum and cables. But with the launch of ‘Operation 300Bn’, the UAE wants to raise manufacturing’s profile to a whole new level.

Again, as with trade, Dubai will run an industry-focussed gameplan of its own. The Dubai Industrial Strategy will carve up a role in six key sub-sectors - aerospace, maritime, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, aluminum and fabricated metals, fast moving consumer goods, and machinery and equipment.

“Operation 300bn aims to make the industrial sector the main driver of UAE’s economy, contributing Dh300 billion to GDP by 2031, more than doubling its current contribution,” the official added. “Together, these initiatives support each other due to their overlap - but they also seek to ensure the UAE becomes a location for advanced sustainable manufacturing.”