Looking back at 2016, I can say that it was one of the busiest years for Dubai Chamber as business conditions gradually improved, while confidence strengthened throughout the private sector.
Trade, travel and tourism remained key factors that fuelled business activity, which helped offset the impact of lower oil prices. The emirate also benefited from further diversifying its economy and revenue sources.
During the first half of 2016, Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade amounted to Dhs647bn ($176bn), while the volume of traded goods witnessed a 17 per cent increase.
China retained its position as Dubai’s top trading partner in the first half of the year, followed by India and the United States. Dubai’s trade with the GCC also saw an uptick in growth, as Saudi Arabia became its fourth biggest trading partner globally.
Recent developments have also led us to feel more optimistic about Dubai’s growth prospects for 2017. The decision to allow Chinese visitors to obtain visas on arrival in the UAE will help us forge closer bilateral ties.
We are also seeing a shift in global trade patterns, and a lot more focus turning to the New Silk Road and Dubai’s strategic position along the historic trading route. The positive impact of Expo 2020 is already being felt in our city’s industrial, retail, tourism, hospitality, aviation and logistics sectors.
Looking ahead, we are excited to be launching the first initiatives from our newly opened office in Shanghai. By establishing a presence there, we will identify attractive trade and investment opportunities for our members in the local market, and also assist Chinese firms that want to expand their reach in the GCC through Dubai.
We have also set our sights on promising markets and exciting opportunities in Latin America. Following the strong response we received at the inaugural Global Business Forum on Latin America in Dubai, we will plan to open the chamber’s first office in the region within the dynamic city of São Paulo.
The Chamber will also build on the progress it has achieved in strengthening Dubai’s trade ties with Africa, with the next Global Business Forum taking place in November. The 11th edition of the World Retail Congress will return to Dubai for a second time. We are proud to be supporting this high-profile conference that attracts high-calibre business leaders and industry experts to discuss the future of retail and the latest trends impacting the industry.
Innovation will play a bigger role in our strategy as we use the Dubai Innovation Index to benchmark progress on this front within the public and private sectors. We will promote innovation through our existing programmes such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Innovation Award, Tejar Dubai, DubaiStartup Hub and our Smartpreneur Competition.
We will also continue to organise initiatives and events that support the growth of SMEs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition, we will work to attract more international events and associations to Dubai that will support its transition to a knowledge-based economy and boost its overall competitiveness.