Asia House’s research report, The Middle East Pivot to Asia 2023 explores key economic trends emerging between the Gulf and Asia. As part of the research, Freddie Neve, Senior Middle East Associate at Asia House, spoke to HE Dawood Al Shezawi, President of AIM Congress, to discuss growing trade between the UAE and Asia.
What opportunities exist to further develop trade and investment ties between the UAE and Asia?
There are several opportunities and these can be realised through platforms such as AIM Congress and AIM Global Foundation, which play a critical role in holding meetings and facilitating discussion between bureaucrats, business leaders, and investors on potential investment destinations and their legal regulations and regimes. The UAE has a state-of-the-art infrastructure and Asia has technological capabilities that can form the basis of cooperation across several areas such as AI, fintech and renewable energy. Cooperation can also encompass sustainable investments through cultural exchanges and even the creation of economic free zones. Furthermore, considering Asia’s large and growing demographics and the UAE’s inventive farming approaches, cooperation in food security and trade is also a prospect. Eventually, these potential synergies will be realised through the activities of the AIM Global Foundation.
Which countries in Asia account for the greatest inward investment into the UAE? What accounts for these countries’ interest in the UAE market?
Some key Asian countries investing heavily in the UAE include China, India, Japan, and South Korea. Their interest in the UAE is driven by several factors: The UAE’s strategic position as a link between the East and West, strong infrastructure, a conducive business environment, and the drive to expand the economy away from oil. Furthermore, online systems such as AIM Congress and AIM Global Foundation also assist in mobilising FDI, creating networks and dialogue that cut across stakeholders, and promoting awareness about the UAE’s investment potential. This has enabled Asian nations to grow their investments and create opportunities in various UAE sectors, including technology, solar, and finance.
“The UAE has a state-of-the-art infrastructure and Asia has technological capabilities that can form the basis of cooperation across several areas such as AI, fintech and renewable energy.”
Which non-oil sectors in the UAE do you believe have the biggest growth potential over the next five years?
Non-oil sectors where we expect to see rapid growth include technology, renewables, logistics and transport, financial services, and fintech. These sectors are often focused on in conference notes, congress reports, and annual reports issued by the AIM Congress. These are areas that are being transformed through a unique blend of Asian expertise and the UAE’s strategic vision.
We are noticing an uptick in Gulf SWF interest in Asia. Is this a trend that you are seeing, and what accounts for this trend?
The AIM Congress and AIM Global Foundation are key platforms that will develop an understanding of the shifting SWF focus from the West to Asia. Against this backdrop, these funds recognise the investment potential of Asian giants such as China and India whose economies are growing rapidly. Investing in Asia’s tech sectors has emerged as another driver for diversification as Gulf SWFs aim at reducing dependence on traditional oil-based assets. The AIM Congress and AIM Global Foundation act as a guide and amplifier for this transition by facilitating dialogues, fostering connections, and offering insights.
We’ve seen a concerted effort by the UAE to develop and expand its capital markets. What future developments will there be in this regard, and will this encourage additional investment from Asia?
This fact underscores the UAE’s aspiration to be a world-class financial hub, which is demonstrated by its move to strengthen its capital markets. In the future, it is anticipated that UAE capital markets will have a greater offering of financial products, more efficient regulatory frameworks, and will deploy advanced technology to make the overall investment environment more attractive. These developments would undoubtedly be of considerable interest to Asian investors prompting more capital to flow from the East into the UAE’s growing financial sector.
HE Dawood Al Shezawi is the President of the AIM Congress (Annual Investment Meeting).
This interview is taken from The Middle East Pivot to Asia 2023 report, which highlights key trends emerging in Gulf-Asia trade. Read the report here.
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