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    The Dubai Silk Road will be built on strong foundations

    Published On: 3 April 2019

    His Excellency Abdulla Al Saleh,
    Undersecretary for Foreign Trade, UAE Ministry of Economy

    The tremendous trade growth that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has experienced over recent decades – more than 11 per cent year on year since 1988 – reflects a global outlook that has served us well.

    Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE has capitalised on its position at the nexus of East and West and established itself as one of the most dynamic and ambitious trade and commodities hubs in the world.

    Key to our success have been Asian markets. Last year, the UAE’s largest non-oil trade partners were China and India, ahead of the US. Total bilateral trade between the UAE and China is expected to reach US$80bn by 2020.

    According to the World Economic Forum, global middle-class consumption growth is predicted to reach US$30 trillion by 2030. Only US$1 trillion of that will come from Western markets. Most will come from Asia.

    We have, therefore, built strong ties with the very markets that are expected to drive global growth this century. And we are blessed with world-leading trade infrastructure to help those markets realise that growth.

    These are the foundations on which we are building the Dubai Silk Road – our ambitious strategy to ensure the UAE remains an essential player in global trade.

    The Dubai Silk Road, set out by His Highness in the Fifty Year Charter, will see 33 individual projects undertaken across nine initiatives, all aimed at creating greater integration within the UAE’s trade and logistics sector.It is a global undertaking that will develop the UAE’s aviation, shipping and digital capabilities across our global logistics network, linking up with China’s major infrastructure programme, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    The Dubai Silk Road will complement the BRI in a number of ways, each creating business and investment opportunities in the UAE. Take digital technologies, for example. China has outlined plans for a ‘digital Silk Road’ focusing on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing with which to boost global trade capacities.

    As a leading trade hub, the UAE is already embracing these digital technologies, which promise to revolutionise global trade, driving efficiencies in supply chains and transforming the logistics landscape. The implication for the UAE is obvious. The future of trade is digital, which means the UAE will need to develop a competitive tech sector to meet the demands of tech-focused trade and the systems it will rely on.

    In this respect, we are ahead of the game. Last year, the UAE economy was ranked first in the Arab world and among the top 20 globally in the Digital Competitiveness Index, issued by the world-leading International Institute for Administrative Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. Our digital economy is thriving and our trade hubs like Dubai are hives of talent and enterprise – ideal places to do business and from which to access Asian markets.

    As we grow into the ‘Asian Century’, it is clear that the UAE’s future success lies with the rise of Asia.  The Dubai Silk Road is one example, but we continue to build our links with the region in other ways too. Earlier this year, DMCC, the world’s number one free zone, based in Dubai, signed an MoU with Asia House, the London-based centre of expertise on trade, investment and public policy with strong links to Asian governments and markets, to build engagement with the region.

    It is through this policy of building on our strengths and engaging with Asian markets that the UAE will guarantee its prosperity and immutable importance to the future of trade.

    This article is featured in the latest edition of Asia House Insights, exploring the Middle East’s pivot to Asia.