US ambassador to the UAE John Rakolta Jr
John Rakolta Jr., the newly-confirmed US ambassador to the UAE Image Credit:

Abu Dhabi: The newly-confirmed US ambassador to the UAE will officially take up his role in the next two weeks, it was announced on Monday during a US embassy event held in Abu Dhabi.

John Rakolta, who serves as chief executive officer to Walbridge, a major US construction company, was first announced as ambassador to the UAE last year by president Donald Trump, with his confirmation having been approved by the US senate last month. With his mainly commercial rather than diplomatic background, Rakolta is expected to use his business acumen in strengthening commercial ties between the US and the UAE, which last year stood at around $25 billion.

“Our new ambassador John Rakolta will be arriving here in the UAE in two weeks. We’re very excited to have him here. He comes from a business background and I know that he is going to want to exert all efforts on his own part and on the part of the [US] embassy in support of expanding US-UAE commercial relations,” said Steven C. Bondy during the launch of the annual Discover America event. Bondy has been serving as the official charge d’affaires to the US embassy since March of last year in the absence of an official ambassador.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the event, Bondy spoke positively on the US-UAE business relationship calling it an important policy for the US, highlighting the UAE as the top trade partner to the US in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“The trade relationship is incredibly important, the $25 billion that I mentioned (in) bilateral trade is actually the highest number in the MENA region and this is the 10th year in a row that the UAE is our largest trading partner in this part of the world.

“Relating it back to jobs [in the US], of course when you’re exporting those goods, services and technology it’s generating jobs in both countries, in particular in the country of production, that’s a very important aspect of it,” he added, explaining how strong trade relations with the UAE was helping with job creation back in the US.

Looking ahead, Bondy said he was confident on a healthy trade relationship with the UAE and said that events like Expo 2020 would present further opportunities for US companies in the UAE.

“We are certainly working towards growth in those [trade] figures, I don’t want to make any predictions … [but] something like Expo 2020, which highlights the cutting edge aspects of what the American companies can offer, we think that will result in good sales.

‘That’s the kind of thing that we can bring that maybe other countries really can’t, they don’t have the same industrial base, [and] they don’t have the same technology base,” he added.

Commenting on ambassador Rakolta’s business background, Bondy said the potential was there for furthering the commercial relationship between both countries.

“This is a gentleman who has been the CEO of a company for decades, so for him it’s second nature to be working in the commercial realm.

“For him It’s going to feel very comfortable to jump in and promote what American companies have to offer,” he added. “Of course the other business of the embassy will continue, will expand [and] roll on. But, that kind of laser focus on the economic and commercial realm is going to be very beneficial ultimately,” Bondy said.