Dubai's external trade reaches Dh323bn in first quarter despite coronavirus crisis

Exports rise 2% year-on-year to Dh43bn while imports touched Dh189bn

This picture taken on February 1, 2020 shows a view from La Mer North marina in Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai skyline seen in the background. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
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Dubai saw the value of its external trade reach Dh323 billion in the first quarter of 2020 despite headwinds from a slowdown in global economic growth due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Exports grew 2 per cent year-on-year to Dh43bn while imports touched Dh189bn, Dubai Media office said on Wednesday. Re-exports totalled Dh92bn during the period.

“Dubai has demonstrated its economic resilience amidst the global Covid-19 crisis,” Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council, said.

“Though the pandemic has impacted markets around the world, Dubai’s external trade has been able to maintain its momentum thanks to the diversity of its markets and its ability to adapt to global changes, trends and needs.”

In terms of volumes, the emirate’s external non-oil trade amounted to 24 million tonnes, Dubai Media Office said without specifying the trade value. Imports accounted for 16 million tonnes, exports totalled 4.2 million tonnes and re-exports volumes stood at 3.6 million tonnes during the quarter.

Earlier this year, Dubai rolled out a stimulus package to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses and help trade. The package included a 20 per cent refund of the customs fees imposed on imported products sold locally in Dubai markets from March 15 to June 30.

The emirate also cancelled the Dh50,000 bank or cash guarantee to undertake customs clearance activity. Bank guarantees or cash paid by existing customs clearance companies are also being refunded as part of the new measures announced by the government.

“We look to the future with optimism and we are confident we will overcome this current challenge, and at the same time use the opportunities that this challenge creates in the best possible way to realise our strategic plans to consolidate Dubai’s position as a leading global example of excellence and success,” Sheikh Hamdan added.

Dubai Media office also said direct trade in the first quarter reached Dh188bn, while trade out of free zones totalled Dh133bn. Meanwhile, customs warehouse trade accounted for Dh2bn; land trade contributed Dh4bn; sea trade reached Dh116bn and air trade Dh163bn.

Customs transactions in Dubai during the first quarter of this year rose sharply by 60 per cent to reach 4 million, reflecting the “resilience of the Dubai economy and its ability to cope with changes and challenges".

“This makes Dubai one of the best customs and logistics hubs in the world and a very attractive environment for foreign investments and businesses," said Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World group chairman & chief executive and chairman of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation.

In terms of trade with other countries, China remained Dubai’s largest trading partner, contributing Dh35.8bn. India was the second-biggest trading partner with  Dh30.4bn, followed by the US with Dh19.5bn.

The highest traded commodity by value in 2019 was precious metals and stones. Gold, jewellery and diamonds trade grew 2 per cent to Dh92bn, followed by phones with Dh38bn, and petroleum oils, which contributed Dh16bn.