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The UAE’s non-oil foreign trade value surpassed Dh3.5 trillion in 2023 for the first time in the country’s economic history despite the global downturn in international trade movement, according to reports by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said that the UAE, under the leadership of President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has reached “unprecedented heights in its non-oil foreign trade figures”.

“We indicated at the beginning of 2023 that it would be a record economic year. The UAE has established new bridges of cooperation through comprehensive partnership agreements. Thus, our foreign trade with the top ten trading partners jumped by 26 per cent, with Turkey by more than 103 per cent, with Hong Kong-China by 47 per cent and with the USA by 20 per cent,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“The UAE today is at the heart of the international trade movement. Our economic commitments to everyone continue,” he added.

China remained the UAE’s leading trading partner, followed by India, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Türkiye. The next five were Iraq, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Japan and the Sultanate of Oman.

The record growth of the country’s non-oil foreign trade, overcoming the challenges of global trade, coincided with a continuous increase in the value of non-oil exports in 2023, exceeding Dh441 billion, with a growth rate of 16.7 per cent compared to 2022. Exports in 2023 were more than double the exports in 2018 and are close to achieving double the exports of 2019, as they increased by 28 per cent compared to 2021 as well as 66 per cent compared to 2020, and by 84 per cent compared to 2019, the UAE Government’s Media Office statement said.

The contribution of non-oil exports of goods to the country’s overall foreign trade increased to 17.1 per cent, up from 14.1 per cent in 2019 and 13 per cent in 2018.

“The record growth in both total foreign trade and non-oil exports was accompanied by a similar increase in re-exports, which hit Dh690 billion, a growth of 6.9 per cent compared to 2022 and a growth rate of 27.7 per cent compared to 2021. Re-exports continued their upward trend of growth over the recent years, excepting 2020, which is considered an exceptional year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying closures around the world,” the statement said.

While imports surged to Dh1.4 trillion, a growth of 14.2 per cent compared to 2022, the top 10 imported commodities achieved a growth of 20.9 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022, and the rest of the commodities grew by 6.3 per cent. The most important imported commodities are gold, telephones, petroleum oils, cars and diamonds.

In 2023, the UAE’s services trade surplus grew to Dh207 billion, up from Dh96.26 billion in 2021, indicating a continued increase in its share of global service exports. Key sectors such as travel and tourism, ICT, professional and financial services, education, medical tourism, Islamic financial services, the creative economy and logistics saw a significant contribution to this growth.

In 2023, the UAE’s non-oil trade with its top 10 partners grew significantly. Trade with Türkiye, which contributed 5.1 per cent to the total, grew by 103.7 per cent, the highest among the top 10. This followed the September implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries. Other notable increases were with Hong Kong-China (47.9 per cent), which now ranks eighth among the UAE’s top ten trading partners, the US (20.1 per cent), and China (4.2 per cent). Trade with India, which has a similar agreement since May 2022, grew by 3.9 per cent, accounting for over 7.6 per cent of the total trade.

Non-oil exports to the top 10 partners grew by 26.9 per cent, with Türkiye accounting for nearly 60 per cent of UAE’s exports in the last five months of 2023 – and underlining the impact of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement which came into force in September. India was the second-largest recipient of UAE exports.

Gold, aluminium, oils, cigarettes, jewellery, copper wire and ethylene polymers topped the list of the country’s most important exports of goods.

Quarterly performance promises further growth

In Q4 2023, the UAE’s non-oil foreign trade of goods reached a record Dh710 billion, a 16.3 per cent YoY and 12.4 per cent QoQ growth. This marked the first time non-oil trade exceeded Dh700 billion in a quarter. Non-oil exports of goods amounted to Dh132.2 billion, a 39.3 per cent YoY and 26.9 per cent QoQ increase. Since Q1 2023, non-oil exports have consistently surpassed Dh100 billion.

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