Frank Mollen, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

With over €4 billion (about Dh18 billion) in trade between the two nations, the UAE ranks as one of the top 25 export markets for the Netherlands and is the European nation’s most important trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa after Turkey. 

“Dutch Foreign Direct Investment in the UAE was worth over €2 billion in 2016 and almost 40 per cent of all Dutch exports to the Gulf are destined for the UAE,” Frank Mollen, the Dutch Ambassador to the UAE, told GN Focus. More than Dutch 250 companies have operations in the Emirates, including multinationals and a large number of small and medium enterprises.

The two countries are now collaborating in a range of areas. “The UAE’s drive to excel in innovation and sustainability, as well as the developments in areas like water and agro-food match extremely well with Dutch priorities and expertise,” he said in an email interview. “We are impressed with the UAE’s diversification of its economy, which offers good opportunities for cooperation and partnerships.” 

Several high-level visits are in the works. In July, Mariam Al Muhairi, UAE Minister of State for Food Security, is expected to visit Wageningen University and Research and other entities to understand food production challenges within the UAE context. “The Agricultural Business Unit at University of Wageningen is working on developing new sustainable concepts of crop production through greenhouses, as well as innovative building techniques that is capable of climate-controlling, energy saving and efficient energy conversion,” Mollen said.

The embassy also working on a number of other visits in the areas of female entrepreneurship, trade, healthcare and sustainability, he added, besides following up on a Memorandum of Innovation Co-operation signed by the UAE Minister of Economy, Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, with counterpart Henk Kemp last year. 

In January, the two countries held a roundtable on the water-energy-food security nexus at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, following which the embassy has commissioned a report on the nexus in the UAE reflecting policies and developments. The nexus remains a broad area of collaboration and will form the theme of the Dutch participation at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Looking ahead

Collaborations will continue in the fields of energy, aviation and healthcare. “The Netherlands ranks sixth worldwide for patented requests for solar energy applications. Dutch companies are also developing innovative machines and technologies to manufacture cost-efficient solar cells,” the ambassador said.

And on the healthcare front, in the last four years, the Dutch healthcare system has been ranked number one in the Euro Health Consumer Index, a leading assessment of the performance of national healthcare systems. Moreover, the Netherlands has always been home to game-changing inventions: from the microscope to new revolutionary DNA editing techniques.

“Lastly but not least the Netherlands has a long-term expertise when it comes to the oil and gas sector as well as the maritime sector. Cooperation has been going on for many years and the annual ADIPEC is for the Netherlands visited by an average of 60 Dutch companies a year,” he added.

With the strong business ties between the two countries, the diplomatic missions lean on the BeNeLux Business Council in Abu Dhabi and Netherlands Business Council in Dubai for support, with events aimed at developing and strengthening trade, investment and business opportunities.

“Furthermore we engage strongly with the various important trade fairs and exhibitions taking place in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which are key to further strengthening our good economic cooperation and expand opportunities for B2B cooperation,” Mollen said. “We also welcome UAE delegations to the Netherlands linked to innovation, healthcare and off shore energy cooperation as well as water, energy and food.”

7,500 Dutch expats 

In terms of tourism, many Emiratis travel to the Netherlands for its picture-postcard countryside and cultural attractions, he added. Direct travel between the two nations is now easier thanks to visa waiver agreements and direct daily flights with the flag carriers of both countries. 

The Emirates offers a home to 7,500 Dutch nationals, most of whom live and work in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the ambassador said, citing UAE data. With their national holiday, King’s Day falling on April 27 each year, events  have been planned in the UAE this weekend to celebrate.