US commerce secretary wants much closer business ties to UAE
ABU DHABI // Entrepreneurship, infrastructure and renewable energy are some of the areas in which the United States plans to collaborate with the UAE over the next decade, according to the US secretary of commerce.
Penny Pritzker told an audience in Abu Dhabi on Sunday that more work needed to be done between the two countries to ensure a bright future for the next generation of Americans and Emiratis.
“I believe we’re at a truly exciting moment in the history of our relationship,” she said, speaking as part of her trade mission to the UAE. Ms Pritzker is the first US secretary of commerce to visit the Gulf with an accompanying trade mission in 15 years.
“We prioritise this region because the Obama administration puts a very high value on America’s relationship with the Gulf and there are lots of opportunities for US companies here as well.”
She said the US commercial and economic relationship with the UAE had never been stronger.
“Our bilateral friendship reaches all the way back to the UAE’s foundation,” Ms Pritzker said. “We have supported each other in countless ways. Clearly, the US and the UAE share a commitment to preserving the stability and security throughout the Gulf and that commitment won’t change, even as the US becomes more energy independent.”
She said business leaders throughout the world had woken up to fact that the UAE was a powerful regional and global hub for commerce.
“It ranks 26th in the World Bank ‘ease of doing business’ rankings and it is viewed as one of the most stable places to do business in the entire Middle East,” she said. “Given these facts, it is no surprise that more than 1,000 US firms have established a presence in this country.”
There is now strong demand for transport equipment, renewable-energy technologies, large-scale infrastructure and computers, and the US sees a new wave of “small businesses that are exporting to the UAE”.
“Ninety-one per cent of the sales to the UAE that we supported last year were from small exporters,” Ms Pritzker said. “Nearly two thirds were from firms exporting to the UAE for the very first time so we are just scratching the surface of our potential and we are hoping to do more business this week.”
So far, meetings with Mubadala and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority have already led to partnerships with US companies in infrastructure and transportation to help build the future of Abu Dhabi. They include Etihad Rail, Abu Dhabi Metro, the alternative energy and smart-grid system and the development of Saadiyat Island.
“It’s not a one-time push,” she said. “With Abu Dhabi’s population set to more than double in just 15 years, businesses from both countries can help the emirate fulfil its potential as it moves to a diversified, knowledge-based economy.”
Other areas of focus include construction, engineering, architecture and design. But educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for Emirati youth need to increase to ease future investment in both countries, she added.
“We are helping to build a legal environment where entrepreneurs can have the ability to try, fail and try again, which is crucial,” she said. “Entrepreneurship is something that is near and dear to my heart, having started five companies myself, so there are a lot of ways we can work together on that.”
Khalfan Al Kaabi, the first vice-president of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, said it would continue to build bridges between the US and the UAE.
“As we go through an economic growth in Abu Dhabi, we see there are more opportunities that can be concluded between our members and their US counterparts,” he said. “As a business community, we must take advantage of this excellent reality.”
David Chavern, the executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the US Chamber of Commerce, will visit 15 businesses in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah this week to ease barriers for US firms in the UAE and to open up channels for Emiratis to work in the US, in energy, infrastructure, real estate, information technology and communications.
“We believe trade and investment is a two-way street so we are promoting increased US investment in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We support breaking down barriers to expand trade and investment.”
Danny Sebright, the president of the US-UAE Business Council, said partnership was key to the success of business in this part of the world.
“Gone are the days of only transactional business relationships,” he said. “Our Emirati colleagues expect our US businesses to be partners in the truest sense of the word in the long-term. The UAE is the US’s top export destination in the Mena region and has been for the past five years. The opportunities are boundless.”
Updated: March 9, 2014 04:00 AM