US-UAE alliance: A dynamic relationship makes for a strong partnership

In our meetings this week, we came together virtually to write the next chapter in the story of our friendship

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On Tuesday, senior government leaders from our two nations gathered for the inaugural US-UAE Strategic Dialogue. We assessed the state of our ever-strengthening alliance, a partnership united in security, trade and culture that is rooted in shared priorities, common values and mutual aspirations.

Periodic strategic evaluations between nations are a healthy way to assess where our relationship stands and how it can be enhanced. Only close allies sharing a bond of trust and mutual respect engage in such honest conversations. This dialogue will create a framework to achieve optimal and mutually beneficial results now and long into the future. It will allow both countries to effectively organise and focus aspects of our partnership.

From our perspectives, as the US Ambassador in Abu Dhabi and the UAE Ambassador in Washington, the US-UAE relationship is flourishing and the outlook looks even brighter. This optimism is mutual because we see firsthand the benefits of this alliance as we engage Americans and Emiratis across the public and private sectors.

From the pursuit of regional peace, to trade and innovation, to co-operation in health care, education and the arts, this is a partnership that is both broad and deep. It touches countless aspects of American and Emirati life. A dynamic relationship spanning varied disciplines makes for a strong partnership and this confidence underpins our strategic alliance.

Through the US-UAE Strategic Dialogue, we will build upon our recent achievements. The Abraham Accords, facilitated by the US, reshaped the region in a bold and swift move. In the Middle East, we need more co-operation and less conflict, increased harmony and a reduction of hostility.

Vision and leadership allowed this breakthrough to occur, and the desire for collaboration in business and entrepreneurship between the dynamic economies of the UAE and Israel will benefit the neighbourhood. It is heartening that scientists and researchers from all three countries are collaborating to develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tests to address the coronavirus pandemic. The future possibilities are endless.

UAE Ambassador to the United States,  Yousef al Otaiba, accepts the distinguished diplomatic service award, at the World Affairs Council Global Education Gala, in Washington, DC, March 7, 2013.

This historic development does not erase the regional dilemmas confronting our two nations. Weak governance, economic mismanagement and corruption in some Middle Eastern countries, coupled with destabilising efforts by foreign powers, threaten to undermine progress. Extremism, sectarianism and terrorism are alive and well in too many places.

This reality underscores the need for a close US-UAE security partnership to deter military threats. Our deep defence and intelligence relationship sends a clear message to adversaries that our bond is unshakeable. The UAE continues to assume an increased responsibility for shared security, while the US maintains a vital role in regional efforts. Joint planning, training and military exercises between our armed forces enhance our mutual national security obligations. For the UAE, it is a source of tremendous pride that Emirati troops have participated with the US in six military coalitions and that 5,000 American military personnel are stationed in the Emirates.

John Rakolta Jr, the US ambassador to the UAE, inaugurating construction of the US pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Courtesy of the US Embassy

The US and UAE have been aptly described as “essential business partners”. In 2019, with bilateral trade exceeding $24 billion and exports to the UAE supporting 120,000 American jobs, our commercial alignment creates prosperity through trade, investment and employment. Last year, the US had a $15.7bn trade surplus with the Emirates – America’s third largest globally. The expanding UAE knowledge and innovation-based economy, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence, is a particularly fertile space. It is our belief that increased collaboration will drive job growth, spur business opportunities and empower the up-and-coming generation of entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, best-in-class US institutions are opening hubs of activity in the UAE. Since its establishment in 2015, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is revolutionising the delivery of health care in the country while Mayo Clinic’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi Health Services Company serves as an example to other organisations looking to collaborate in key sectors. New York University Abu Dhabi attracts talented students throughout the world and is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. US companies in the fields of aviation, civil nuclear energy, renewables, space exploration, food security and life sciences understand the necessity of establishing operations in the UAE. Cultural institutions similarly see the emergence of a regional arts capital, and collaborations between local organisations and the Smithsonian Institution underscore this theme.

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From the pursuit of regional peace, to trade and innovation, to co-operation in health care, education and the arts, this is a partnership that is both broad and deep. It touches countless aspects of American and Emirati life

Finally, the strategic dialogue will include an effort to strengthen the US-UAE human rights partnership by exchanging best practices and jointly working to counter human trafficking, confront religious hatred and ethnic bigotry and protect and promote human rights on the domestic, regional and international levels. While political, security and commercial issues are integral to this strategic dialogue, the glue binding the alliance is values-based. Countries that empower women to lead government ministries, foster peaceful religious co-existence and respect cultural diversity are thriving societies.

This joint perspective is the basis for our shared optimism about the future of the US-UAE relationship. In our meetings this week, we came together virtually from Abu Dhabi and Washington to write the next chapter in the story of our friendship, and to chart a course for continued prosperity and progress. The discussions to come will be forward-looking as we chart a course for a more prosperous and secure future, building upon a nearly 50-year-old bilateral relationship.

Yousef Al Otaiba is the UAE ambassador to the US. John Rakolta, Jr is the US ambassador to the UAE