Dubai's non-oil external trade reaches Dh551bn in first six months of 2020

Trade showed 'considerable growth' in May and June compared to April when widespread movement restrictions were imposed

Containers are stacked at the port of Jebel Ali, operated by the Dubai-based giant ports operator DP World, in the southern outskirts of the Gulf emirate of Dubai, on June 18, 2020. - The chairman of DP World said it is "preparing for the worst" with the full impact of coronavirus to hit in coming months, as global trade suffers its worst blow since World War II.
The firm and its subsidiaries are a major source of cash for the emirate's economy, one of the most diversified in the oil-rich Gulf but mired in a long malaise. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
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Dubai recorded Dh551 billion ($150bn) in non-oil external trade in the first six months of 2020, signaling a resurgence in trading activity during the second quarter.

May and June saw “considerable growth", compared with April of this year when widespread movement restrictions that were enforced to contain the pandemic disrupted global trade, the Dubai Media Office said in a statement on Monday.

External trade jumped 17.2 per cent in May from April to reach Dh75 million and grew 20 per cent to reach Dh90 million in June.

The emirate’s ability to minimise the impact of the pandemic on its trading sector reflects “its exceptional logistics infrastructure”, which enabled it to maintain uninterrupted trade flows, the media office said.

“External trade is one of the key pillars of our economy … [and the] sector has shown a high level of preparedness in dealing with the crisis,” Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World Group chief executive and chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, said.

“It has provided exceptional trading facilities and services to help businesses around the world overcome the challenges of the current period.”

Imports during the first half of the year accounted for Dh320bn, while exports and re-exports accounted for Dh77bn and Dh154bn respectively. A total of 44 million tonnes worth goods were traded through the emirate including 30 million tonnes of imports, 8 million tonnes of exports and 6 million tonnes of re-exports, according to the government data.

The Covid-19 crisis has severely disrupted global trade and hampered the travel and tourism sector as countries shut down their borders and limited movements to contain the virus. The pandemic has tipped the global economy into the deepest recession since the1930, but green shoots of economic and trade recovery are gradually emerging. A full rebound, however, will take longer, according to the World Trade Organisation.

The global trade body now estimates a 9.2 per cent decline in the volume of world merchandise for 2020 before it grows 7.2 per cent in 2021, as the world emerges from the pandemic.

The non-oil economy of Dubai, the commercial and trading hub of the Middle East, has bounced back strongly, consistently expanding over the last three months, as the emirate eased Covid-19 restrictions, according to the IHS Markit Dubai PMI data released earlier this week.

Dubai's latest first-half data shows airborne trade reached Dh250bn, accounting for 45 per cent of the total trade. Sea trade was valued at Dh212bn, representing 39 per cent and trade through land touched Dh89bn, accounting for 16 per cent.

Direct trade totaled Dh320bn, while trade through free zones reached Dh227bn and customs warehouse trade weighed in at Dh4bn.

China maintained its position as Dubai’s largest trading partner in the first half of 2020 with Dh66.4bn worth of trade, followed by India (Dh38.5bn) and the US (Dh31.7bn). Saudi Arabia continued to be emirate’s largest Gulf trade partner and its fifth largest global trade partner with Dh24.1bn worth of trade.