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Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

The United Arab Emirates is among the world’s most dynamic markets in terms of foreign trade. It is one of the world's 16 largest exporters and 20 largest importers of commodities. In 2012-2014, trade represented on average just under 175% of the GDP.

The United Arab Emirates has a structurally positive trade balance, but the surplus has been decreasing due to declining oil prices. In 2015, exports dropped by 12.5% compared to 2014, while imports rose by 3.5%, reducing the surplus to USD 76.2 billion. Thanks to the development of non-oil exports, the UAE should be able to retain its trade surplus. 

The UAE is considered a central business hub of the Gulf countries, Iran, South Asia and East Africa. Its main trade partners are Japan, India, Iran, South Korea and Thailand. The main products exported by the country are crude oil, natural gas, dried fish and dates. Its main suppliers are India, China, the United States, Germany and Japan. The United Arab Emirates mainly imports machinery, transport equipment, chemical products and food stuffs.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20112012201320142015
Imports of Goods (million USD) 203,000226,000239,000250,000230,000
Exports of Goods (million USD) 302,000349,000379,000375,000265,000
Imports of Services (million USD) 55,70262,30161,15763,74465,650
Exports of Services (million USD) 12,06315,27620,42222,98226,358
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 18.85.26.512.3-1.2
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 20.719.05.10.23.4
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 72.375.375.476.083.1
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 90.3100.6101.097.397.4
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 162.6176.0176.4173.4180.5

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) - 2016; World Bank - 2016

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2015
Iran 3.2%
India 3.2%
Iraq 2.0%
Saudi Arabia 2.0%
Oman 1.6%
Switzerland 1.2%
Belgium 1.2%
Hong Kong 1.2%
Qatar 0.9%
Kuwait 0.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2015
China 8.0%
United States 6.7%
India 6.2%
Germany 4.2%
Japan 3.6%
United Kingdom 2.2%
Italy 1.9%
South Korea 1.8%
Switzerland 1.6%
France 1.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2015

 

Main Products

333.4 bn USD of products exported in 2015
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 10.1%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 4.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 4.2%
Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted or set (excl. unmounted stones for pick-up styluses, worked stones, suitable for use as parts of meters, measuring instruments or other articles of chapter 90) 3.7%
Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal (excl. articles > 100 years old) 3.3%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 1.7%
Unwrought aluminium 1.4%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 1.4%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 1.3%
Polymers of ethylene, in primary forms 0.5%
287.0 bn USD of products imported in 2015
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 8.9%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.8%
Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted or set (excl. unmounted stones for pick-up styluses, worked stones, suitable for use as parts of meters, measuring instruments or other articles of chapter 90) 4.0%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 2.8%
Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal (excl. articles > 100 years old) 2.5%
Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 2.0%
Turbo-jets, turbo-propellers and other gas turbines 1.4%
Parts of aircraft and spacecraft of heading 8801 or 8802, n.e.s. 1.0%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 1.0%
Taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances for pipes, boiler shells, tanks, vats or the like, incl. pressure-reducing valves and thermostatically controlled valves; parts thereof 0.7%

Source: Comtrade, 2015

 
 
 

Main Services

27.2 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Travel
58.90%
Transportation
37.90%
Government services
3.20%
24.4 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Travel
62.05%
Transportation
33.04%
Government services
4.91%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Last Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
UAE Dirham (AED)
Exchange Rate Regime
The Emirates dirham has a fixed parity with the U.S. Dollar. There is no exchange control.
Level of Currency Instability
The AED is pegged to the dollar at a rate of USD 1 = AED 3.6725.
 
 
Monetary Indicators 20112012201320142015
UAE Dirham (AED) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 3.673.673.673.673.67

Source: World Bank - 2016.

 
 

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Main International Economic Cooperation
The Emirates are very open to international trade. The country is part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), a programme of the Arab League that entered into force in January 2005 and aims to form an Arab free trade area. In June 2009, the GCC concluded a free trade agreement with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland (the European Free Trade Association).
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention
No

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Goods shipped to the United Arab Emirates should be accompanied by the following documents :

- The single administrative document
- The commercial invoice
- A phytosanitary certificate
- A health certificate
- An export certificate for processed products, certifying that the prouct is fit for human comnsumption. It should be attested by the competent authority.
- A certificate of origin
- A certificate of radioactive non-contamination
- A hala certificate (animals must have been slaughtered according to Islamic rite)
- A transport certificate
- A supplier's certificate
- Transport documents and packing list

These shipment documents should be attested by the competent national trade body and by the UAE Embassy in the country of origin.
Free Zones
The Emirates has created 15 free zones for the purpose of attracting foreign investments. There are nine in Dubai, two in Sharjah, one in Ras el Khaiman, one in Fujairah, one in Umm el Quwain and one in Ajman. More than 17,000 companies work there, with a total investment estimated at more than USD 21 billion.
For Further Information
UAE Federal Customs Authority
Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Non Tariff Barriers
It is prohibited to import irradiated food, and the import of alcohol, tobacco and pork is governed by a strict quota system. All beef or poultry-based products must be accompanied by a health certificate from the country of origin.
The UAE is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In 1981, the GCC established an agreement (Unified Economic Agreement) according to which all farm, animal and industrial products as well as natural resources of the member states should be exempt from customs duties or any other tax when traded within the GCC. The GCC is presently in talks with the European Union, Japan and the USA regarding future free-trade agreements.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
No dispute concerning UAE import regulations has been reported to WTO.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
United Arab Emirates and WTO

Learn more about How to Export to the United Arab Emirates on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

 

Standards

National Standards Organisations
Website of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA)
Integration in the International Standards Network
The UAE has been integrated into the international standardisation system since the ESMA became a member of the International Organisation for Standardisation and the International Communication Union. Moreover, there has been a regional effort by member countries of the Gulf Council to meet requirements related to standards in the framework of the Customs Union.
Obligation to Use Standards
Certains standards of ESMA are obligatory while others are voluntary. Moreover, for certain sectors like construction, it is useful to ask for a technical agreement of the municipality. This is not an obligation but it can faciliate the procedures. For foodstuffs, the health services of each municipality enforce the regulations and standards for local or imported food products. The national and emirate governments, as well as professional associations, are constantly reviewing standards requirements. This is particularly true for the construction industry. Currently, government agencies and private firms stipulate the standards on a project-by-project basis.
Classification of Standards
UAE + S+ GSO followed by either a digit code corresponding to the area or a letter code and figures, and then the year. Internally, the code is composed of two digits corresponding to the product section, then a number composed of 2 to 3 digits based on the degree of detail.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
ESMA has formulated the Emirates Conformity Assesment Scheme (ECAS) system, which is a system of standards which shall become obligatory for a range of products based on decision no. 114/2 of the cabinet.
Online Consultation of Standards
The norms and standards are available on the website ESMA. This is a paid service and technical guides have to be ordered.
Certification Organisations
ESMA Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology

 

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Last Updates: June 2017