Dubai’s non-oil trade expanded 7.6 per cent last year, slowing from 13 per cent growth in 2012, but the emirate’s trade with Iran stabilised despite U.S. economic sanctions, according to Dubai customs data released on Sunday.
The non-oil foreign trade of Dubai, one of seven members of the United Arab Emirates, rose to Dhs1.329 trillion ($362 billion) in 2013. The emirate exports small amounts of oil and imports natural gas.
Dubai’s non-oil exports and re-exports climbed 4.0 per cent to Dhs518 billion, while imports surged 10 per cent to Dhs811 billion.
The emirate saw its economy pick up strongly last year as tens of billions of dollars worth of new real estate projects were announced following a 2008-2010 property market crash.
Tourist numbers rose 10 per cent to 11 million people last year, while new trade licences recorded an increase of 12 per cent, the government media office said on Sunday. The total value of real estate transactions jumped 53 per cent to above Dhs236 billion.
Buoyed by a renewed inflow of money from abroad, Dubai’s residential real estate prices climbed more than 20 per cent last year and analysts estimate they may return to pre-crisis levels next year.
Dubai has traditionally been a major trading partner of Iran but that link has been hurt since late 2011, when Washington imposed banking sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme that forced Dubai to cut back business sharply.
Merchandise trade between Dubai and Iran plunged 31 per cent to Dhs25 billion in 2012. But last year it rebounded slightly to about Dhs26 billion, representing 2 per cent of Dubai’s non-oil trade, Dubai customs told Reuters.
Although the banking sanctions remain in place, Iranian traders say their activities have become easier since President Hassan Rouhani took office last August, reducing geopolitical tensions and helping to stabilise the rial currency.
“Dubai’s bilateral trade with Iran goes in line with international obligations,” the Dubai customs authority said in an emailed reply to Reuters questions.
“It is a normal trade covering consumer goods, namely foodstuffs, car spare parts, electronics and carpets, given the geographical proximity between the two sides.”
The vast majority of trade between Iran and Gulf Arab states is routed through Dubai. Wooden boats, known as dhows, continue to carry some goods across the Gulf.