Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber: Interview

Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber

Interview: Hamad Buamim

What is the outlook for regional trade relations?

HAMAD BUAMIM: Our main trading partners are in the GCC and this should remain the case in the years to come. Over the past 15 years, GCC exports by Dubai Chamber members have risen 10-fold, from Dh17bn ($4.63bn) in 1998 to Dh180bn ($49bn) in 2014. The GCC Customs Union, an agreement that became fully operational in January 2015, is important for Dubai to cement its position as an international trade and business gateway for the region.

In 2015 Dubai Chamber members’ exports to Saudi Arabia expanded considerably, reaching Dh105.7bn ($28.8bn) and accounting for 56% of our members’ total GCC exports. Smoothing relations between our countries’ respective small and medium-sized enterprises is also a major focus, and we expect our relationship to deepen and grow in the near future.

Trade with Oman posted slight increases in 2015, reaching Dh12.1bn ($3.3bn), followed by Kuwait with Dh22bn ($6bn), Qatar with Dh25.4bn ($6.9bn) and Bahrain with Dh7bn ($1.9bn).

What type of economic integration measures would increase investor confidence?

BUAMIM: Domestically, resolving insolvency is a major area that the UAE is currently working on to help increase investor confidence. Having the US dollar pegged to the UAE dirham also remains a distinct advantage for the UAE, in light of the facts that the world is looking for stability and that our economy is still relatively small on a global scale.

In early 2015 we witnessed an enforced GCC union and we have started to see more border transactions among the member states. Although the dialogue about creating a GCC currency is still relevant, there is a long way to go before reaching the integration standards of the eurozone. We are hoping to achieve smoother transitions of goods, people and services between the GCC states. Using technology to streamline Customs procedures and clearance should be integrated in a coherent way within all member states.

How can Dubai secure its role as a link to Africa and Asia? Who are its key economic partners?

BUAMIM: South Asia has historically been a major partner and contributor to the Dubai economy. According to the state agency Dubai Customs, the emirate’s total non-oil foreign trade in 2015 reached Dh1.28trn ($348.4bn), with a large portion of this coming from that region. China was again Dubai’s number one trading partner in 2015, and China-Dubai trade registered a value of Dh160.3bn ($43.6bn) in 2015.

India is Dubai’s second-largest overall trade partner, with trade between the two countries reaching Dh95.4bn ($26bn) in 2015. Dubai is also investing in the Indian economy. For instance, the SmartCity Kochi project in Kerala has been based on the UAE model of the smart city, and Dubai’s TECOM owns an 84% share. China has always been a larger import market for Dubai, while India is a larger export and re-export market, dominated by trade in precious stones and metals.

In 2015 Dubai’s total non-oil trade with African countries was valued at Dh110.3bn ($30bn), according to Dubai Customs. On a UAE-wide level, Egypt was the federation’s main trade partner in Africa in 2015, with trade worth Dh14.2bn ($3.9bn), followed by Libya with Dh10.4bn ($2.8bn), according to data from Dubai Customs, and growth in Dubai’s trade with Africa looks set to continue.

In general, there has been huge global demand for an entry point to African and Asian markets. Major investments in aviation, ports and infrastructure have been helping to strengthen Dubai’s unique global trade and trans-shipment position.

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The Report: Dubai 2016

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