Planning a reinforced route for global trade

An uptick in the ICT and banking sectors and the growth of Dubai Wholesale City are just two examples of a growing economic exchange between the UAE and China, says HE Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

China today is Dubai’s number one trading partner. What has been the key driver behind that relationship?

Dubai’s trade relationship with China has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Non-oil trade between Dubai and China amounted to US$47.9bn in 2015, surging 102 per cent from US$23.7bn in 2010. The strong commitment of leadership in China and the UAE to strengthen bilateral ties is among the most important factors that has allowed bilateral to flourish.

China has always been a large import market for Dubai, and the country’s exports to the emirate have also grown despite a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy. The UAE and Dubai in particular plays a key role in keeping Chinese commodities flowing to markets around the world. It is in our best interest to enhance economic cooperation with China as it’s expected to become the world’s largest economy by 2030.

Dubai’s trade ties with China have evolved beyond hydrocarbons, consumer goods and manufacturing to other areas of mutual interest. Chinese companies setting up operations in the emirate as it pushes ahead with major infrastructure projects ahead of Expo 2020.

The opening of a Dubai Chamber office in Shanghai points to a firm commitment to furthering bilateral trade relationships between China and the emirate. What role will the office play?

We have carefully studied the Chinese market for some time and quickly realised the need to establish a presence there. Through our office in Shanghai, we can more effectively promote Dubai as an international business hub and strengthen economic ties with China. Our operations there will reinforce the Chamber's commitment to supporting bilateral trade and improve our members’ access to trade and investment opportunities.

At the same time, the new office will serve as a platform for Chinese businesses to enter Dubai and the wider Middle East region. We encourage Chinese companies and investors to reach out and make use of the office as it’s there to support and guide them.

Earlier this year you attended a China-UAE Cultural Exchange Summit. What key synergies and mutual areas of bilateral and cultural cooperation were identified?

During the summit in Chengdu, we identified synergies and new prospects on the horizon in fast-growing sectors. Some of these include investment opportunities in Dubai Wholesale City, which is set to become the largest wholesale hub in the world. The event also highlighted China’s Belt and Road initiative and examined ways the UAE can support this plan and align its own Look East policy with this strategy.

The Sino-UAE Business Matching Seminar, held on the sidelines of the summit, was a big success as it established a foundation for Dubai-businesses and their Chinese counterparts to collaborate. In this session, they explored joint venture opportunities in mutual areas of interest including new and traditional energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, technology, hospitality, education and finance.

What makes Dubai such an attractive base for the 2,000-plus Chinese companies registered with Dubai Chamber?

Dubai’s strategic geographic location provides Chinese companies with easy access to surrounding markets in the GCC and East Asia. Chinese companies have realised the benefits of trading with Dubai, namely its strategic geographic position, in addition to its world-class shipping and logistics infrastructure. By utilising Dubai as a regional hub, Chinese exporters can easily access markets across Africa and Europe.

The emirate is also a major hub for re-exporting consumer goods from China to other markets in the Middle East and North Africa region. Last year, the total value of goods re-exported through Dubai from China reached US$375m, and we expect this number to grow as more Chinese firms set up operations in the emirate.

Beyond these strengths, Dubai’s investor-friendly environment and high marks in ease of doing business make it an ideal choice for Chinese companies that export and trade with this region and surrounding markets.

The number of Chinese companies registered with Dubai Chamber surged 54 per cent in 2015 to 2,055, when compared to just 1,335 in 2008. We are confident that our new office in Shanghai will help us broaden our network of members and expand trade flows between the two countries.

'The number of Chinese companies registered with Dubai Chamber surged 54 per cent in 2015 to 2,055, compared to just 1,335 in 2008. We are confident that our new office in Shanghai will help us broaden our network of members and expand trade flows between the two countries'

HE Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

In what ways will China’s Belt and Road initiative encourage further interest in Dubai from China’s business community? In what ways is Dubai Chamber preparing for that?

China’s Belt and Road initiative has the potential to transform global trade. Dubai is a key point on this route and stands to benefit significantly benefit from the plan in the coming years. The initiative has created a wealth of investment opportunities in the private sector across infrastructure, construction, energy and manufacturing.

A number of MoUs have already been signed between the UAE and China that intend to improve collaboration to support the initiative. We will continue to monitor developments associated with this plan with the aim of increasing collaboration to other areas. We look forward to seeing these efforts come to fruition in the years to come.

Dubai Chamber is an official Dubai Week in China Partner. Now in its second year, how important is the event in helping further bilateral ties between China and the emirate?

Dubai Week in China is an ideal platform to network with Chinese business leaders investors, explore mutual areas of collaboration and promote Dubai as an attractive investment destination. The event provides a unique environment where officials from the emirate’s leading entities can connect with key stakeholders in the country. Through these exchanges, we are able to build on important relationships we have formed with Chinese companies and chambers of commerce.

The event is also an opportunity for us to become more familiar with China’s diverse business communities and get a first-hand look at market trends and sectors that are seeing the most momentum and investment. By partnering with this initiative, we can effectively convey our message that Dubai is a global gateway that offers Shanghai and China plenty of opportunities to boost trade and economic development.

What is Dubai Chamber’s key event for Chinese investors?

Dubai Week in China is the most successful Dubai-focused conference in China, which is why we have decided to extend our support for another year. This time around, the delegation from Dubai is larger, which is a testament to the growing interest in the event and its global reach.

The China-UAE Trade & Cultural Exchange Summit is another major event that we have participated in. The summit is a prime opportunity to improve bilateral relations and showcase what Dubai has to offer businesses and investors based in China. Beyond trade and investment, the event enables us to build a cultural bridge and look at other areas where we can share knowledge and best practices, such as education, tourism and lifestyle.

From what industry sector do a lot of Chinese companies register with Dubai Chamber?

Chinese companies of various sizes are active across all sectors of the UAE’s economy, and a majority are present in various free zones in Dubai. These businesses mainly operate in construction and electro-mechanical, manufacturing, retail and trade-focused segments. However, over the last few years we have seen an uptick in business activity in other key sectors such as ICT, banking and real estate.

For insight on the establishment of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, and its subsequent transformation into a global entity, watch 50 Years of Dubai's Growth