The US and UAE enjoy a close relationship built on a shared commitment to security and continued economic growth between and within our countries. As a central aspect of this relationship, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – together with our other US federal partners – work closely on matters of mutual concern with Abu Dhabi and the UAE government, and with multilateral and non-governmental organisations and private sector partners.
The US and the UAE have strong commercial links, with over $16bn in bilateral trade in 2011. The emirate of Abu Dhabi is a hub of global travel and trade, and a last point of departure to the US for passenger aircraft, as well as air and sea cargo. Under the leadership of President Barack Obama and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the partnership between our countries has continued to advance.
In December of 2011, I met in Abu Dhabi with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to set up an Immigration Advisory Program (IAP), as a first step toward the establishment of a passenger pre-clearance pilot programme. The IAP places US Customs and immigration officers at Abu Dhabi International Airport to advise Emirati law enforcement about the admissibility of passengers into the US prior to their boarding a plane. Ultimately, IAP will lay the foundation for a pre-clearance pilot, which will allow passengers traveling to the US to be fully screened in Abu Dhabi, helping us to identify potential threats while facilitating a more efficient passenger experience.
The agreement signed in Abu Dhabi, along with the IAP agreement signed in Doha just days earlier, were the first of their kind in the Middle East, representing our increased engagement with the Gulf region.
Our increased collaboration reflects the reality that Abu Dhabi and the US share common goals, values and challenges. Both countries must contend not only with domestic criminal activity, but also with terrorism and transnational crime, cybercrime, human smuggling and trafficking, natural disasters, and the need to protect our people while respecting civil rights and civil liberties. Moreover, both countries have a vested interest in facilitating trade and travel, upon which both our economies rely.
In our ongoing mutual partnership with the UAE, DHS has placed personnel from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US Customs and Border Protection and the US Transportation Security Administration in the Emirates. Through this collaboration, we have conducted visa security checks to prevent terrorists and other criminals from exploiting the visa process, seized millions of dollars worth of smuggled currency and helped Abu Dhabi build a state-of-the-art Customs Academy.
In addition, we have worked together to better secure the global supply chain. As a key shipment and trans-shipment point, the UAE is an important partner in this effort, participating in efforts such as the DHS-led Container Security Initiative, which pre-screens high-risk shipments bound for the US.
Beyond our security relationship, we also collaborate on emergency management, an area where the UAE has done important work to build capacity and enhance community preparedness. DHS has worked with the Emirates Foundation to develop a community emergency response team programme based on a model that is currently being used in the US, but tailored to the unique needs of the UAE.
Together, DHS and Abu Dhabi have formed a partnership built on our shared economic and security interests. Through this partnership, we are making the global supply chain that drives job creation in both our countries more secure, efficient and resilient and we are making Americans, Emiratis and all those who travel between our countries safer.
DHS looks forward to furthering our close collaboration with the emirate of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a whole. With stronger ties between our two countries, we can better promote growth while increasing the security and prosperity of all of our people.
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