Alabama trade mission team travels to United Arab Emirates

Alabama trade mission team travels to United Arab Emirates
Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates and a global business hub. (contributed)

A team of Alabama business leaders is visiting the United Arab Emirates to explore new markets and forge key partnerships in this important gateway for commerce across the Middle East and North Africa.

Last year, the UAE was Alabama’s 19th largest export market, with $186 million in products shipped there. With $11 million in state imports from the country, total two-way trade reached $197 million.

Top Alabama exports to the UAE include defense equipment, vehicles and industrial machinery, along with aircraft and parts.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield is leading the state trade mission delegation this coming week in meetings with business organizations and government officials in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Canfield also has meetings with industry leaders in the aviation and defense sectors.

“We are excited that we are taking the Made in Alabama brand to the UAE,” he said. “We expect to bring home a better understanding of this market, and more importantly, we expect our companies to expand their global footprints into the UAE.”

‘Regional hub’

The UAE is a small market of 9 million people, with expatriates comprising about 85 percent of that total. But the country does play a major role in gathering imports from the U.S. and re-exporting to the region, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We are interested in looking at the logistics that are in place and learning more about this,” she said.

Members of the delegation will meet with organizations including the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Expo 2020, Dubai Future Foundation and the Accelerator Lab in Dubai.

United Arab Emirates is already a major trade partner with Alabama. (contributed)

Meetings in Abu Dhabi include one with the UAE Ministry of Economy and a couple with private organizations in the aerospace sector. Also on the agenda is a tour of McWane Gulf, a division of Birmingham-based pipe manufacturer McWane Inc.

Other members of the Alabama delegation include representatives from:

Other organizations supporting the trip are the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce – U.S. Commercial Service, Alabama International Trade Center, Alabama District Export Council and Export Alabama Alliance.

Lockhart said the meetings are aimed at educating everyone about the UAE’s position as a regional hub for doing business in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

“The UAE represents a market that is stable, particularly in these days of regional conflicts,” she said. “The country is diversifying its dependence on oil by developing new industrial and commercial sectors, and their aggressiveness is visible as they are already an international manufacturer of aluminum.

“In addition, they are stepping up with new ventures in aviation and defense.”

Targeting opportunities

For Fluid Solutions, a global supplier of mechanical fluid pumping systems and related accessories, this trade mission is an opportunity to build on the company’s growing international business, said David Gonzalez, new business development manager and a member of the Alabama delegation.

The Birmingham-based company offers complete systems with full integration by bridging the gap from design to implementation. Its global supply and service capabilities allow it to competitively represent several U.S. manufacturers and offer multinational customers a consistent buying and commissioning experience in markets around the world.

“To date, we’ve been in over 125 countries and counting. Much of our work in the region has been with U.S. governmental entities such as the Department of State or Department of Defense,” Gonzalez said.

“However, our goal for this trade mission will be to leverage that experience and our new office in Ankara, Turkey, to open broader possibilities to the UAE and Eurasian market at large,” he said.

The UAE occupies a strategic position for companies across the U.S. that are looking to do business in the region. Made up of seven emirates – including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, Fujairah and Ras Al-Khaimah – it has developed into the second-largest economy in the Arab world.

Home to substantial petroleum reserves, the UAE has pursued free market, trade liberalizing policies to diversify its economy away from a dependence on fossil fuel.

Two-way trade between the U.S. and the UAE reached $24.6 billion last year.

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