Interview: Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi
How have the UAE’s economic and foreign policies adapted to changes in the global economy?
SHEIKHA LUBNA BINT KHALID BIN SULTAN AL QASIMI: The UAE’s foreign policy is founded on neighbourliness, non-interference in internal issues and amicable resolution of disputes. Our economic policy is noted for its ability to adapt, which has made us one of the most economically open countries in the world. The UAE has been highly successful in ensuring freedom of capital movement and implementing flexible economic legislations, all of which have had a positive impact on foreign policy. Our proactive response to global shifts was tested during the recent global economic crisis. We proved our ability by containing the negative impacts of a global recession and converting challenges to opportunities. We have always been at the forefront in regional efforts to strengthen global interconnectedness by signing economic agreements with countries all over the world.
What role can the UAE play amid ongoing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa region?
AL QASIMI: Given the challenges some countries in the region are currently facing, the UAE looks to offer confidence and security to the skilled manpower in the region. We must ensure that the country maintains adequate regulation and reliable energy supplies resulting in a strong value proposition for investments. At the same time, we must ensure that cross border capital flows make tangible contributions to the building of local businesses and core competencies.
Our foremost role is to serve as a model of development. As the region’s commercial hub, we have a solid formula for economic growth that our neighbours can emulate. Another key role we play is as moderator. The UAE enjoys an influential role in regional and international forums that tackle issues related to the development of the Middle East.
The UAE leads the Arab world in terms of human development and we remain committed to promoting the UN’s development objectives for Arab peoples. We have provided a huge amount of aid to help our neighbours with problems such as massive population growth, natural disasters and epidemics.
How is the UAE working to better capitalise upon pending GCC free trade agreements (FTAs)?
AL QASIMI: We are occasionally asked why we don't pursue FTAs directly for the UAE. The strength of the GCC economic block means much greater benefits for all countries involved, which has been demonstrated by trade agreements signed by ASEAN and the EU. This is largely due to the fact that core competencies of individual countries improve the items available for negotiation, resulting in more favourable terms for all involved. For example the UAE adds a large service sector component to the equation, whereas other Gulf countries offer a greater emphasis on industry and commodities.
During the financial crisis the GCC began re-evaluating priorities related to trade agreements, as there were a great many under consideration. With priorities now decided upon, we expect progress to resume swiftly. In the case of the pending FTAs with the EU and China – the UAEs two largest trading partners – we hope to expedite these discussions.
How can the UAE best counterbalance exposure to China and India as its two largest trade partners?
AL QASIMI: The UAE is not necessarily over dependent on any individual country, and it strives to maintain a healthy diversification. For example, we focus on increasing the value proposition of our commodity exports but also on strengthening the value added aspect of the re-export market.
Government investment in technological integration has helped further enhance the country’s competitiveness in established non-oil industrial activity such as ceramics, aluminium and steel. The UAE is fully committed to maintaining balanced relations with its international partners, especially China and India, which now account for the bulk of our international trade.
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