Water Feature at Expo 2020 Dubai
Water Feature at Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Madrid: Expo 2020 Dubai’s role in boosting bilateral business ties was a key topic of discussing during a gathering in the Spanish capital Madrid between UAE and Spanish representatives on Monday.

Majid Hassan Mohamed Al Suwaidi, Ambassador of the UAE to Spain, and Xiana Mendez, Spanish Vice-Minister for Trade, attended a working breakfast organised by ‘The Diplomat in Spain’ and ATREVIA as a prelude to Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Diplomat in Spain is a digital newspaper for diplomats, both foreigners and Spanish nationals, founded in 2014. ATREVIA is a global communications and “strategic positioning” company.

Méndez said: “The essence of all Universal Expos is to contribute to designing a better world through active collaboration between people… The objective is to focus on the main challenges facing the world, not only economic but also environmental, without forgetting urgent social issues such as gender equality.”

Al Suwaidi said “The UAE is a country that empowers women, welcomes diversity, fosters innovation and incorporates global commitments. Dubai will witness with this [Expo] the latest and best innovations in business, science and technology, art and culture.”

Destination UAE

Both agreed on the UAE’s potential as a business centre and investment hub. Mendez said: “[This is true] not only because of its political and economic stability, but also because of its long-term vision to drive the engines of its economy. We sincerely believe that it is the most suitable platform in the region to expand business, and the Expo will certainly be a great opportunity to demonstrate this, and for companies to increase their activity.”

Al Suwaidi said the UAE, in 2019 alone, recorded the highest growth in renewable energy investments globally, reaching an increase of 1,223 per cent compared to 2018. The UAE aims to “lead in shaping the global economy over the next 50 years’’, he added.

To support this vision, Al Suwaidi said, the UAE government has established more than 34 free and specialised economic zones operating under different legislations in a low-tax environment. Also, a number of new initiatives have been introduced to promote foreign direct investment, which include laws to allow 100 per cent ownership of local companies by global investors in the UAE. ‘’This is how we have managed to attract more than 3,200 foreign companies now doing business in our territory.’’

Bilateral economic relations

The ambassador also highlighted the robust economic relations between the two countries, with a bilateral investment flow of more than $9 billion (around Dh33 billion) and the presence of more than 170 Spanish companies in the UAE. He also highlighted the importance of agreements, such as the one reached between CEOE (said to be the biggest Spanish entrepreneurial organisation) and the Emirates International Investors Council.

“Although economic relations are already solid and stable, both countries can do much more – and Expo 2020 Dubai will serve the objective of further strengthening ties between the two territories,” Al Suwaidi said.

Mendez said: “UAE and Spain are closely intertwined strategic partners. UAE is one of the largest foreign investors in Spain and the leading investor among GCC countries.”

In 2018, the UAE accounted for more than €6 billion (around Dh25.9 billion) in foreign direct investment in Spain in terms of equity, mainly through its Sovereign Wealth Funds.

Mendez said: “Mubadala is our largest Emirati investor with a large stake in several top Spanish companies such as CEPSA, Enagas, Matsa or Glovo. But the most important thing is that there are large investment projects ahead that invite us to look to the future with enthusiasm.”