The UAE became the largest commercial hub in the Arab world in 2009 despite a sharp decline in its imports because of the business downturn in the aftermath of the global fiscal crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Exports also contracted due to lower crude prices and production but the country surpassed Saudi Arabia as the top trading centre in the region last year for the first time since it was established in 1971, the figures showed.
The UAE’s total trade of goods and services hit an all time high of around $389.8 billion in 2009 while Saudi Arabia’s exchange stood at nearly $366.1 billion although the Kingdom is the largest Arab economy, its population is nearly five times that of the UAE and pumps more than triple the Emirates’ oil output.
The IMF figures showed the UAE’s imports of goods and services stood at around $187.5 billion in 2009, nearly 20 per cent of the total trade of $909 billion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Its exports were estimated $202.3 billion, slightly lower than Saudi Arabia’s exports of about $202.5 billion. But the UAE’s imports far exceeded those of the Kingdom’s $163.6 billion, the figures showed.
The UAE was ranked ahead of all other MENA countries despite a sharp fall in its 2008 trade of around $468.5 billion. Imports in 2008 peaked at nearly $219.7 billion and exports at around $258.4 billion.
The decline in 2009 from the previous year was a result of a cut of more than 200,000 bpd in the UAE’s oil supplies in line with OPEC’s collective agreement, a $35 fall in crude prices and a sharp drop in imports due to global downturn.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s oil powerhouse, suffered more in terms of export decline as it trimmed crude output by more than one million bpd, depressing its total exports by a staggering $121 billion from the 2008 peak of $323 billion.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia were the only Arab nations to be included among the top 20 exporting countries and among the largest 30 importing states in a report released recently by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The UAE, the second largest Arab economy, had been tailing Saudi Arabia in the region in terms of commercial exchange before it overtook the Kingdom in 2009.
A large part of the UAE’s non-oil trade is based by Dubai, the region’s commercial entrepot which handles over 20 per cent of the Gulf non-oil trade.
Government data showed the UAE’s exports of goods last year stood at around Dh206.8 billion and re-exports at nearly Dh628.7 billion. Imports, mostly by Dubai, were put at about Dh942.5 billion.
According to the Kuwaiti-based IAIGC, a key Arab League establishment, the UAE accounted for around 1.4 per cent of the world’s total exports and 1.1 per cent of the global imports of goods in 2009. Saudi Arabia accounted for 1.5 and 0.7 per cent of the global exchange respectively.
China emerged as the largest global exporter, with a value of around $1.2 trillion, accounting for nearly 9.6 per cent of the world’s total exports of goods.
The United States was the top importer last year, with a value of about $1.6 trillion, amounting to around 12.7 per cent of the world’s total imports.
Germany was second to China in the export list, with its export value standing at around $1.12 trillion, nearly nine per cent of the world’s total exports.
The US came third, with exports of about $1.05 trillion, accounting for nearly 8.5 per cent of the world’s total. It was followed by Japan, Netherlands, France, Italy, Belgium, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
China was the second largest importer in 2009, with an import value of around $1.006 trillion, nearly eight per cent of the world’s import of goods.
Germany came third, with around $931 billion, accounting for around 7.4 per cent of the world’s total imports. It was followed by Japan, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Hong Kong and Belgium, according to the report.
It put the world’s total trade exchange at about $25.1 trillion, including around $12.46 trillion in exports and $12.64 trillion in imports.
The largest 30 exporting countries listed in the report accounted for around 82 per cent of the world’s total exports and 81.6 per cent of the total imports.