From our rich history of economic exchange, to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, the UAE and the Netherlands have enjoyed nearly 50 years of partnership. While the world-famous flower fields of the Netherlands and the UAE's desert metropolises can seem worlds apart, there is more that connects our peoples than meets the eye.
With over 7,800 Dutch nationals calling the UAE home – alongside nearly 200 other nationalities – visitors from the Netherlands have always been given a warm welcome here. Historically, the coasts of the UAE served as prime commerce and supply points for Dutch traders and explorers, and today our country continues to serve as a key entry point into the region for the Netherland's businesses and entrepreneurs.
Trade between our two countries has flourished in recent years, with total UAE investment flows into the Netherlands reaching about $750 million between 2003-2019. In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on global markets, non-oil foreign trade between our two nations reached more than $3 billion.
The UAE and the Netherlands have invested in the communication, renewable energy, and transportation and warehousing sectors as key areas of focus to create jobs and generate economic opportunities. The agreements signed by our two countries – including ones for the avoidance of double taxation and air services – reflect this level of economic engagement. With 42 weekly flights between our two countries during the winter of 2020, it is easy to see why about 100 Dutch companies have invested in the UAE over the years, and why the UAE has become the most significant export market in the Middle East.
As the world sets out on a post-pandemic recovery, the UAE is optimistic that bilateral trade will continue this remarkable growth. We look forward to exploring new opportunities for partnership by increasing trade delegations and official visits in the coming period.
The UAE-Dutch relationship has also brought our peoples together to share in our rich cultures. We both believe firmly that by strengthening cultural collaboration, we can benefit from each other's experience.
This year's inaugural UAE-Netherlands Week is evidence that our partners in the Netherlands share our interest in promoting the arts and engaging in knowledge exchange through our museums and other creative fields. The UAE Embassy in The Hague participates annually in the Embassies Festival, where we showcase Emirati culture through food, folk dance, traditional clothing and other heritage displays. In addition, the UAE Embassy has benefited from its many visits to Dutch universities to draw lessons from the fields of agriculture and food technology, two areas in which the Netherlands excels.
As global tourism resumes, UAE citizens and residents are keen to enjoy all that the Netherlands has to offer and even more enthusiastic in welcoming back Dutch visitors to the UAE. This year, as the Netherlands joins nearly 200 other countries and organisations participating in Expo 2020 Dubai, we will have the opportunity to experience the Dutch language, culture, and traditions in the UAE.
Expo 2020 Dubai will also serve as a forum through which the UAE and the Netherlands can strengthen one of the pillars of our enduring relationship: food security. We are excited to see what our Dutch partners will display in their "microclimate" pavilion, which will focus on water, energy, and food resources. Our two countries have worked concertedly to achieve food security in a sustainable manner, and Expo 2020 Dubai offers opportunities for Dutch agri-tech companies to expand their engagement within the UAE, as well as other target markets.
In recent years, the UAE and the Netherlands have held high-level discussions on how to bolster global food security efforts. Our two countries share a commitment to assisting developing nations in addressing concerns over food security and fostering innovation in this field to promote new and efficient technologies.
As the world confronts the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, this issue has taken on renewed importance. In November 2018, the UAE launched the National Food Security Strategy to ensure that everyone in the UAE has access to sufficient, affordable and nutritious food, especially during emergencies. The National Food Security Strategy laid the foundations for enhancing our country's preparedness by underscoring the need to diversify import sources, enhance local production and identify new markets.
At the start of the pandemic, the UAE updated the National Food Security Strategy to promote self-sufficiency and provide the market with necessary commodities during the Covid-19 crisis. We believe we can benefit from working with the Netherlands and other international partners to share this knowledge with the global community and continue to learn from their best practices in the field.
The UAE has long valued its partnership with the Netherlands and believes that this year's historic celebrations will elevate our co-operation to new horizons. In 2021, the year in which the UAE celebrates 50 years as a nation and nearly 50 years of friendship with the Netherlands, we are determined to seize upon the opportunities that abound for bilateral and multilateral collaboration.
It is this belief that has led the UAE and the Netherlands to connect deeply our two regions through diplomatic, economic and cultural exchange over the past half-century. Ultimately, it is this vision that will guide our partnership – defined by opportunity, innovation, and mutual benefit – for many more years to come.
Omar Saif Ghobash is Assistant Minister for Public and Cultural Diplomacy at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation