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The UAE has one of the most open economies in the world. This tradition of welcoming business and trade goes back to early Gulf history, when ships sailed to India and along the coast of East Africa as far south as Mozambique.
The UAE continues to be a strategic hub, with business-friendly free zones and a quickly growing economy. The country has experienced significant economic growth. Average GDP growth over 2000 to 2006 in the UAE was about 8.4 percent—the highest in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which averaged 6.5 percent.
The nominal GDP for 2007 was $192 billion. This reflects the rich natural resources in the UAE, which has 10 percent of the total world supply of oil reserves and the world’s fifth largest natural gas reserves.
As a mainstay to the economy, oil exports now account for about 30 percent of total UAE gross domestic product. In addition to being an important supplier of energy, the UAE is now becoming an increasingly relevant consumer of energy. The UAE will continue its long tradition of responsible energy stewardship as it develops and diversifies its economy, accelerates the development of additional hydrocarbon reserves and contributes to the development and implementation of alternative energy sources.
The UAE launched a diversification and liberalization program to reduce reliance on oil and transform its economy from a conventional, labor-intensive economy to one based on knowledge, technology and skilled labor. The federal and individual Emirate governments have invested heavily in sectors such as aluminum production, tourism, aviation, re-export commerce and telecommunications.
This resulting infrastructure boom sees virtually every economic sector undergoing rapid redevelopment and expansion. The UAE accounts for most of the ongoing and planned infrastructure projects among the GCC countries, amounting to an estimated $300 billion in investments over the next five years, according to Dubai-based Khaleej Times.
A number of global business indexes have recognized the advantages that the UAE brings to international business. AT Kearney ranks the UAE as one of the top 20 best places in the world for global service business. And the UAE is ranked in the top 30 on the World Economic Forum’s “most-networked countries”—ahead of all other Arab nations, as well as countries like Spain, Italy, Turkey and India. The UAE also gets positive rankings from Transparency International’s corruption index, ranking in the top quarter as a least corrupt country. US business has also recognized the importance of the UAE-US economic relationship. In May 2007, the US Chamber of Commerce launched the US-UAE Business Council, whose members include 36 companies from both countries.