Multilateralism and modernising of supply chains key to world trade and economic recovery

The UAE is positioned as a 'gateway to the world' and is a 'leading voice on trade reform', Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi says

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Photo: World Economic Forum
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Multilateralism and modernising of supply chains are critical in overcoming challenges facing global trade, which is central to the recovery and growth of the world economy this year, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade said on Thursday.

Accelerating the adoption of technology to catalyse the flow of goods and ensuring all nations have equal and unrestricted access to the global trading system will help global trade fend headwinds going forward, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi told ministers and global trade and business leaders on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The global merchandise trade volume rebounded strongly in 2021, jumping 9.7 per cent amid a strong bounce back in global economy. Although the total value of trade exceeded $32 trillion and world container shipping hit an all-time high in August 2022, the overall trade growth last year is projected at 3.5 per cent as the world economy decelerated, according to the World Trade Organisation estimates.

The WTO has trimmed its forecast for trade growth to 1 per cent in 2023, citing increasing downside risks from high inflation, declining consumer spending and the continuing energy crisis.

A world divided into trading blocs will result in a 5 per cent contraction of the global economy in the long term, more than the world economy lost during the financial crisis, the director general of the WTO said in Davos on Tuesday.

Nations in emerging markets and developing countries stand to lose more with the fragmentation and decoupling of trade, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the WEF during a panel discussion.

Dr Al Zeyoudi held a number of ministerial meetings to make the case for the evolution of the global trading system with the UAE at its heart, the trade ministry said on Thursday.

Citing the UAE’s trade successes in 2022, including record exports in the first half-year that exceeded Dh1 trillion ($272.5 billion), he said the Emirates is positioned as a “gateway to the world” and is a “leading voice on trade reform”.

“Amid an uncertain global economic climate, the UAE remains an open, ambitious, dynamic economy that is reaching out to the world to accelerate trade,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“The centre of economic gravity is slowly shifting south and east, and we are right at the heart of this evolution.”

In the first half of last year, the Middle East recorded 74 per cent trade growth, the highest year-on-year expansion in the world. The foreign trade agenda of the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, can build on that success and further facilitate global trade, the minister said.

“We want to be the bridge to the private sector, driving new trade deals, partnerships, FDI [foreign direct investment], and talent migration, and helping to connect the world’s fastest-growing economies,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“At a time when many worry about deglobalisation, we are looking to drive global economic expansion — to the benefit of us all.”

Dr Al Zeyoudi shared the UAE's global trade agenda in ministerial meetings with Yulia Svyrydenko, First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy of Ukraine; and Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce for Cambodia, the two nations that are currently negotiating Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with the UAE.

He also met with the Czech Republic’s minister for industry and trade Jozef Sikela, Alfredo Pascual, secretary of trade for the Philippines, Belgian Foreign, European and Trade Minister Hadja Lahbib, and Morocco’s Minister of Industry and Trade Ryad Mezzour.

Dr Al Zeyoudi also held talks with Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which will hold its eighth World Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi in October.

He also met with business leaders from the private equity, ICT, advanced technologies and AI, pharmaceuticals and financial service sectors.

Updated: January 19, 2023, 1:38 PM