Full Text of Speech by H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi

Keynote Speech for the 2009 WACA National Conference, “The Development of the Commercial and Trade Bilateral Relationship between the UAE and the USA”

 

Speech by H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade

At the World Affairs Councils of America 2009 National Conference

The Mayflower Hotel Washington, DC

February 20th, 2009

 

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Thank you for the kind introduction, and good afternoon to you all. Today marks a wonderful opportunity for the United States of America to further strengthen its affinity with the international community, as it sets new directions under a fresh leadership. This Conference also reflects the solidarity we need to foster in order to effectively address the major obstacles to our growth as a global community.

May I first take this opportunity, to commend the World Affairs Councils of America for preparing an excellent platform for us to discuss and debate the state of the global economy, the challenges we all face and the solutions that will hopefully transition the world into recovery at the soonest possible time. It is indeed an honour to be among individuals who have chosen to take a unified stand in exploring the policies and strategies that will get us back on track towards our shared goal of long-lasting prosperity and peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The UAE is a firm believer in the resilience of the United States and its ability to rebound from the toughest adversities. Today, America’s greatest challenge is to rally its economy back to the level of productivity needed to sustain its vision of national growth and maintain its international leadership. We are gathered here, to affirm our full support for this policy and to champion collaboration as the only path to global progress.

The US is one of the United Arab Emirates’ earliest and most valued international partners. It was in fact the third state to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Emirates shortly after our country was established in 1971. Today, the UAE is home to more than 30,000 Americans and over 750 vibrant American-owned businesses. UAE nationals in turn visit the US in larger numbers than any other Arab nationality, affirming the close bond and high regard between our nations.

The Emirates continues to maintain strong economic and commercial trade relations in particular with the US; we are in fact the single largest export market for US goods and services in the Arab World. Our bilateral trade with the US in 2008 is around USD 15 billion, representing an increase of 32 per cent over 2007’s USD 11.5 billion.

America’s exports to our country have expanded four-fold since 2000, with UAE customers taking interest in a host of products ranging from civilian and military aircraft to information, communications and oil service equipment as well as automobiles. The establishment of a US-UAE Business Council affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce in May of 2007 further consolidated our economic efforts and will definitely open the doors to more mutual and lucrative business prospects. Overall, our commercial collaboration has indeed been very dynamic and highly productive.

This strong partnership has been highly influential in accelerating our exploration of the US’ rich investment environment. Our companies currently work with many prominent American institutions such as the Carlyle Group, Nasdaq, GE and AMD, to name just a few. UAE interests are also funding greenfield projects that promise to employ thousands of US citizens, such as a new semiconductor facility in New York supported by the Advanced Technology Investment Company of Abu Dhabi, as well as a new logistics center in South Carolina to be built by Jafza International.

In our home front, we are eyeing emerging growth areas such as healthcare, education and energy for potential ventures with the US. We are heavily involved in several university and non-governmental organization partnerships that promote knowledge transfer while advancing local capacity. Some of the prominent US universities that have established their own programs and facilities in the UAE include New York University, Michigan State, George Mason and Harvard University.

Faculty from John Hopkins and partnerships with Cleveland Clinic, Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic also continue to advise us on public health issues and assist us in enhancing public health education throughout the country.

Security cooperation:

In the field of security and military cooperation, we take tremendous pride in being one of the strongest and most reliable allies of the United States. Our history of cooperation goes back to well before Desert Shield. Since then the UAE has served along side US troops in Kosovo, Somalia, and for the past six years we have been shoulder to shoulder with American troops in Afghanistan.

As we look to address regional security challenges, we have always found reliable partner in the United States. This is clearly illustrated in our defence procurement strategy with America. The UAE has been a leading partner in joint military training and education, but also in procurement. The UAE Air Force flies 80 of the most advanced F-16’S ever built. More recently we initiated the process of acquiring one of the most advanced air defence systems in the world to the tune of approximately $15 Billion to US industry. 

However, weapons technology alone will not resolve conflicts. We must continue with dialogue and communication. Only then will we have a chance to resolve all the challenges that lie ahead of us.

Energy & Cooperation:

In the field of energy, Masdar City, the first such project of its kind to be undertaken by a major hydrocarbon-producing economy, will rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, forming what we envision to be a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology.

Recently, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has been founded and the UAE will be formally submitting a bid for Abu Dhabi to become the home of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Masdar City. Masdar and IRENA share the same vision. IRENA seeks to advance renewable energy by sharing knowledge, developing the necessary regulatory frameworks, and actively promoting the large scale adoption of renewable energy around the world. These objectives are directly aligned to ours, and we believe we have already begun to demonstrate the scale and pace with which we are dedicated to furthering them.

Masdar includes an entire division dedicated to developing some of the world’s largest solar farms and will invest significantly with leading global venture capital groups in developing cutting-edge renewable energy technologies.  Masdar will also soon feature the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a state-of-the-art research center and university which will be done in partnership with MIT.

This city of the future is only the beginning of our commitment to developing sustainable energy sources that can meet our predicted national annual peak demand of more than 40,000 megawatts by 2020. We welcome America’s private industry in achieving this ambitious goal.

Nuclear:

Another commitment to developing sustainable energy sources is the UAE Nuclear Program. Why is an oil exporter thinking about nuclear power?

The simple answer is the UAE is facing a tremendous increase in electricity demand, created by expansion in our industrial base and our population. We now import 60 percent of the natural gas needed to produce electricity. And so, from an economic, environmental, security of supply, and industrial development perspective, nuclear power is an option we simply can not afford to ignore.

The UAE created a national policy on nuclear power – one that has as its foundations complete operational transparency, a commitment to non-proliferation and consults with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the community of responsible nations with nuclear power.

It is a policy that has been called “the gold standard” for countries that may be looking to establish nuclear power programs, and one that we believe establishes a model for civil nuclear power in the world.

The 123 Agreement signed last month is important to the UAE because we want to have the best possible of specialized technology and capabilities to choose from as we make decisions on how to develop a peaceful civil nuclear power program. And the U.S. nuclear industry, with its long history of regulatory, education and operational excellence, is something we very much want to have in the mix.

Further, we believe the successful completion of the 123 Agreement would be good for U.S. business because of the opportunity it provides for a very long-term and financially significant business partnership – as well as the invigoration it would provide for the U.S. nuclear industry.  I want to note that the UAE’s nuclear program already has awarded three substantial contracts – all to U.S. firms.

While I realize President Obama has a lot on his plate, we are confident the Agreement can be sent to Congress shortly. Given our considerable electricity demand, we will be making a technology selection this summer and it is our hope that US industry will be able to compete in this critical program.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As one of the most vibrant economies in the Middle East, the UAE recognizes its own growing role in encouraging more vibrant international commercial relations. At the regional level, the Emirates is expected to become the most preferred investment destination for multinationals based in the Gulf and Egypt in 2009. My organization, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, is exerting extra effort to enhance trade relations among our neighbours so that we can consolidate the economic strengths of our region.

Internationally, the favourable commercial environment that we have succeeded in cultivating was recognized last year, when the World Trade Organization named us as one of the top 30 trading countries of the world. Our generally liberal and rapidly diversifying economy, our removal of major trade barriers, our business-friendly regulatory structure which includes free zones and other mechanisms which allow 100 per cent foreign ownership, and our robust economy have helped spur activity across the international multilateral trading system. Our strategic geographical location just a few hours away from Central Asia, Europe, Southern Asia, Western Asia, India and China also makes us an ideal springboard into these vibrant markets.

We intend to do even more to remain a preferred international trading and business partner. We have initiated privatization and decentralization programs to further streamline governance. We also continue to fine-tune our investment and start-up procedures and adopt legal reforms to increase transparency and promote corporate good governance. Our phased introduction of enhanced reporting will further strengthen our regional and global status as a secure and efficient business destination.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While we are proud of our accomplishments as a people and as a nation, it is also important for us that we help the world secure a brighter future for its members. Through this gathering, we hope to share our own insights and offer our strengths so that we can rebound as a global community.

An official of a leading global fund service once quipped, that “It’s a crisis if everybody calls it a crisis.” Perhaps, as inundated by the term as we are, now is the time for all of us to call it by another name: opportunity. Today, we face a global economic opportunity that draws us together to work on a better blueprint for long-lasting and stable international growth.  Today, we have decided to use this opportunity to affirm our solidarity as a global community. 

I would like to thank the World Affairs Councils of America for inviting me to express the UAE’s faith in a united solution to the world’s economic challenges. I would also like to commend you all, for adding your valuable voices to this productive dialogue on vital global issues. I wish you all success in your present and future endeavours.

Thank you and please enjoy the rest of the Conference.

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