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UAE controlled 26% of Arab trade

The UAE, and particularly Dubai, is a globally recognised trade hub (File)

By Nadim Kawach

 The UAE controlled nearly 26 per cent of the combined Arab trade in 2009 to become the dominant commercial hub in the region after overtaking Saudi Arabia for the first time, according to official figures.

The country’s total trade stood at around $363 billion in 2009, including nearly $192.5bn worth of exports and $171.5bn worth of imports, showed the figures by the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF).

Although its trade was far below the 2008 commercial exchange, the UAE’s exports and imports accounted for 26.1 per cent of the total Arab trade of nearly $1,392bn in 2009, the report showed.

The UAE’s exports constituted nearly 26.4 per cent of the total Arab exports of $726bn while its imports amounted to around 28.2 per cent of the total Arab import value of about $603bn the report said.

After dominating Arab trade for a long period of time, Saudi Arabia lost to the UAE in both exports and imports in 2009 mainly because of a sharp decline in crude prices and a cut of more than one million bpd in the Kingdom’s output.

Saudi Arabia’s exports in 2008 far surpassed those by the UAE as they peaked at nearly $318bn while UAE exports stood at $239bn.

In 2009, Saudi Arabia’s exports tumbled to nearly $190bn to give way to the UAE to become the dominant Arab exporter and importer as the Kingdom’s imports also plunged to $95bn in 2009 from $115bn in 2008.

The figures showed the other Arab countries far lagged behind the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with Kuwait ranking third in exports which stood at only around $50 billion. Its imports were put nearly $24.8 billion.

Qatar came fourth in exports, which were worth nearly $45.3bn as the tiny Gulf country has become the world’s largest LNG supplier.

In imports, Egypt ranked third after the UAE and Saudi with a value of around $45.5bn in 2009, the report showed.

The AMF gave no figures for 2010 but the UAE’s trade is expected to have grown because of higher oil prices and a post-crisis recovery in its economy, which means higher imports and re-exports.

According to a recent IMF report, the UAE was the world’s 19th largest exporter of goods in 2009 and the 24th largest importer.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia were the only Arab nations to be included in the top 20 exporting countries and among the largest 30 importing states.

A large part of the UAE’s non-oil trade is handled by Dubai, the region’s commercial hub which accounts for over 20 per cent of the Gulf non-oil trade.

The UAE maintained its strong global status in terms of imports in 2009 despite a decline in its imports of goods because of slower domestic demand after several years of a steady growth before it was reversed by the global crisis.

Another report by the Kuwaiti-based Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation (IAIGC), a key Arab League establishment, showed the UAE accounted for around 1.4 per cent of the world’s total exports of goods and services and 1.1 per cent of the global imports of goods.

“There was a big leap in the country’s trade volume during the period between 2005 and 2009, further boosting the sector’s share of the GDP to become the third largest component,” UAE Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri said in recent press comments.

“The high value of trade illustrates the strong link between the UAE economy and the world and the substantial development in the country’s economy.”

Oil accounts for most of the UAE’s exports and this explains the sharp fluctuations in the country’s exports.

The UAE’s oil output was estimated at around 2.3 million barrels per day in 2009 compared with 2.6 million bpd in 2008 while crude prices averaged about $62 in 2009 against a record high of about $95 in 2008.