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 UAE GDP for 2020 was $359 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.
Diversification Creates Trade Opportunities
The UAE launched an economic diversification 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 renewable energy, aluminum production, tourism, aviation, re-export commerce, telecommunications, and advanced technologies.
In 2017, the UAE launched the Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with the aim of strengthening the UAE’s position as a global hub for 4IR technologies and innovation. Young people are at the heart of these forward-looking initiatives, taking on key leadership roles in business, government, science and more. In fact, Arab youth increasingly look to the UAE as the top country to live in, citing the country’s wide array of job opportunities as its greatest draw.
Tourism has played a large part in the success of the UAE’s economic diversification. The UAE’s world-class airlines, including Etihad and Emirates, as well as constant upgrading of aviation infrastructure, have played a major role in the advance of the tourism industry and are key contributors to the economy. In 2021, the UAE will host the World Expo, attracting tourists and industry leaders from around the world.
The UAE has one of the most open and dynamic economies in the world. A number of global business indexes have recognized the advantages that the UAE brings to international business. In 2019, AT Kearney ranked the UAE as one of the top 25 best places in the world to deliver business services to global companies, 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 Italy, Turkey and India.
The UAE also gets positive rankings from Transparency International and the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators for control of corruption, ranking in the top quarter of the least corrupt countries in the world.
US business has also recognized the importance of the UAE-US economic relationship. In May 2007, the US-UAE Business Council was launched. Today, the Business Council’s members include over 100 companies from both countries.