The UAE is turning its attention to India and China, as it looks to boost its investment and trade relations with the two fast-growing Asian economies.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has recently completed official visits to both countries.
Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, the Minister of State and chairman of the board of the National Media Council, in an opinion piece on CNNMoney, said: “The UAE’s commitment to invest billions of dollars in India and China demonstrates the strength of our relations with both countries.”
India and China are the UAE’s largest trading partners, with their rapidly expanding middle classes, he said. Also, the UAE is an important bridging point for India and China to the wider Middle East region, as well as Africa and other parts of the world.
“As part of our strategic vision to diversify our economy, we have created business-friendly enterprise zones next to our logistical hubs, attracting thousands of Chinese and Indian businesses,” Mr Al Jaber said. “For instance, the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority is now home to some 800 Indian and 250 Chinese firms. They are drawn to an environment where the ease of doing business is matched only by the unique location that can serve both established markets and open new markets in Africa.”
Ashish Shah, the chief operating officer of Radius Developers, a Mumbai property developer, with a background in consulting, including as a director at KPMG, said that given China’s and India’s relatively high growth levels and the opportunities, the UAE would naturally feel “it had to be present”, helped by the geographical locations.
The Crown Prince travelled to China in December for a three-day visit. Sheikh Mohammed at the time said that he had “significant interest in developing and bolstering bilateral cooperation in economic fields” and the trip resulted in a number of agreements.
Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi strategic investment company, during this visit announced that it would manage a US$10 billion joint investment fund with China Development Bank Capital and China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange. Sheikh Mohammed said this was a move “to work more closely in developing our economies and contributing to global growth”.
The Crown Prince last week visited India, also for three days, which resulted in a number of deals to pave the way to boost bilateral investment and trade, with areas of focus including aerospace, infrastructure and energy.
Ahmad bin Harib Alfalahi, the UAE commercial attaché to India, speaking on Friday at a UAE-India business conference in Mumbai, said that there were tremendous opportunities for the UAE to invest in India. He said that the UAE was India’s “gateway to the region and to the globe”.
Huge numbers of international air passengers to and from India travel via the UAE, while large volumes of re-exports and imports also pass through UAE ports, he said.
The Dubai developer Nakheel this month opened the second phase of Dragon Mart, a shopping centre dominated by Chinese traders who re-export goods around the region.
Mr Al Jaber described the economic relationship with the two Asian economies as “symbiotic”, explaining that there were parallels between India, China and the UAE in terms of how all three countries are striving to ensure “stability by expanding prosperity, not only for their people, but for their neighbours – a principle that also lies at the core of our policies”.
He highlighted India’s plans to increase its manufacturing activity and China’s mission to boost trade flows on the ancient silk route as key examples of this.
“The roots that the Chinese and Indian communities have laid down in the UAE are helping realise our policy of economic diversification, transitioning the UAE from its historic dependence on oil.”
The large number of Indian expats in the UAE and “a sizeable minority of nearly 200,000” Chinese nationals is also a factor that is helping to bolster ties, he said.
“The UAE is one of our important trade partners today,” said Kaushlendra Singh Sengar, the founder and chief executive of Advisorymandi.com, a stock market advisory company based in Delhi.
“With the ongoing structural reforms in India and the current government’s efforts to create a more favourable environment for absorbing FDI, I foresee a significant surge in the new investments from the UAE in the coming years.
“In my opinion, the strategic partnerships between both the countries will bring forth a lot of new investment opportunities for our nation in non-oil sectors, such as infrastructure, tourism, smart cities and new technologies.”
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