Two young nations, and one enduring friendship
The occasion of Australia's national day, known as Australia Day and celebrated tomorrow, is an opportune time to reflect on the strong and expanding relationship the UAE enjoys with this important international partner. Based on shared economic, cultural and security interests, and a successful record of bilateral cooperation between our two nations, this relationship is well positioned to grow even stronger in the future.
Australia and the UAE have many things in common. Both are young nations, with strong historical ties to many of the same countries around the world. We have both been blessed with abundant natural resources that continue to dominate our respective economies, while we also both recognise the necessity of diversifying our economies to make them more sustainable in the future. Our economic relationship is strong and complementary, with the UAE one of Australia's largest trading partners in the Middle East, and its 13th largest overall. The UAE exports large quantities of petroleum to Australia, and imports an even greater amount of cars, metals and food.
The significant investments currently being made in energy, infrastructure and industrial development in the UAE will continue to stimulate international demand for many of the key products and resources that Australian companies export. With more than 80 direct flights between the UAE and Australia every week, more citizens from both our countries are making the trip on a regular basis. As a result, thousands of Emirati tourists visit Australia every year.
More than 15,000 Australians currently live and work in the UAE on a permanent basis, while more than 1,500 UAE citizens are currently studying in Australia. More than 600 Australian companies operate in the UAE, with at least half of those maintaining offices in our country. Both our governments are committed to accelerating the adoption of renewable energy at home and around the world. The UAE was privileged to receive the support of the Australian government in our successful bid to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) in Abu Dhabi. Renewable energy is an area rich with potential for both public and private co-operation between our two countries.
The UAE and Australia continue to have shared interests in defence and regional security. We have been active partners in the reconstruction of Iraq, and our armed forces continue to operate side-by-side in Afghanistan, contributing to stability and delivering much-needed aid to the Afghan people. Since last year, the Australian Defence Force has also maintained a permanent presence at Al Minhad Airbase in the UAE under the terms of an agreement established between our two governments. In addition to establishing a regional base, the agreement provides the Australian Defence Force with increased access to logistical facilities such as ports, while expanding the potential for joint training exercises to be conducted between our armed forces.
The significance of this agreement should not be underestimated. Alongside other international facilities such as the US Air Force base at Al Dhafra and the French naval presence at Dar es Salaam in Abu Dhabi, the establishment of an Australian military base in the UAE is consistent with the UAE Government's long-standing belief that defence co-operation with friendly nations makes our region more safe and secure.
In all the areas in which the UAE and Australia co-operate, the evidence suggests we do it very well. What we don't do as well as we should, perhaps, is expand that co-operation and more fully leverage the areas in which our national interests are aligned. I look forward to discussing the potential to boost our co-operation in these and other areas during my official visit to Australia in the coming days. I also look forward to participating in the second annual Australia-UAE Dialogue, which brings representatives of both countries together to consider the bilateral relationship between the UAE and Australia and to identify opportunities for its expansion.
Through important initiatives of this kind, and the entrepreneurial activities of the bilateral business community, I am confident that the UAE and Australia will continue to demonstrate the ability of shared economic and security interests to act as a catalyst for broader social and cultural exchange, and the establishment and deepening of lasting bilateral relationships. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Published: January 25, 2010 04:00 AM