Dubai’s non-oil sector saw strong business recovery despite pandemic

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade has rebounded strongly from the challenges faced by COVID-19’s global economic consequences and the suspension of business operation by countries around the world in the first half of last year to record high growth in 2020.

Boosted by its resilience to global headwinds, as well as its steady economic recovery and revitalized growth in the second half of the year, Dubai’s foreign trade in 2020 reached $0.32 trillion. Last year, total trade volume bringing in 100 million tonnes, increased by 6 percent year-on-year in the second half of the year. While the overall value of exports increased by 8 percent to $45.4 billion, imports accounted for $186.7 billion and re-exports totaled $89.5 billion.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Crown Prince of Dubai
Chairman – Dubai Executive Council

“The exceptional growth performance of Dubai’s external trade sector reflects the emirate’s impressive resilience and its ability to recover and grow amidst international crises. Dubai has set an example for the world in dealing with both the economic and health repercussions of the pandemic. We were able to quickly renew our momentum of growth and reestablish our global leadership in various sectors.”

“This growth has been made possible by robust governance and the stimulus packages the Dubai Government launched under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The stimulus packages included several initiatives to support the foreign trade sector and enable it to continue playing its important role in national economic growth. The strong trade performance signals a positive start to the ‘Year of the 50th’’ and the efforts to achieve the goals of the UAE Centennial Plan 2071,” Sheikh Hamdan further added.

Sheikh Hamdan remarked that “the external trade sector’s distinctive growth in 2020 will boost the implementation of Dubai’s five-year plan to expand its external trade to $0.5 trillion, consolidating the emirate’s position as a leading regional and global trade and investment hub. Dubai’s new international trade map will see an expansion in air and sea navigation routes, with 200 new cities set to be added to the emirate’s existing network of 400 cities.”

The Crown Prince said that Dubai will keep working to develop new realistic and innovative ways to overcome obstacles and transform them into new opportunities.

Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman & CEO stated that in 2020, Dubai’s foreign trade market triumphed over the effects of a global trade slowdown. Dubai’s trade volumes began to rebound and expand rapidly in the second half of 2020, with the gradual opening of borders. In the third quarter, Dubai’s trade surged 34 percent compared to Q2, and in Q4, trade grew by 7 percent to $88.7 billion compared to Q3.

“Trade volumes in the second half of 2020 expanded by 6 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2019. Overall, 100 million tonnes of goods were traded in 2020, which reflects the rapid recovery of this sector. This rebound is now spurring greater growth in 2021. The resumption of trade with Qatar, the start of trade engagement with Israel, the positive spin-offs from hosting EXPO 2020, and the launch of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan will all contribute to accelerating the emirate’s growth momentum.”

Mr. Bin Sulayem added that “to develop the external trade sector and play a greater role in maintaining Dubai’s leading position in global trade, the Dubai Chamber has been restructured by creating three new chambers of commerce. The new chambers will enhance support for the trade sector by creating new solutions for the needs of investors and companies as part of a strategy to grow the emirate’s global trade in line with the vision of Dubai’s leadership for the next 50 years.”

According to DP World Group CEO, both government departments and organizations will work together to achieve the aim of improving Dubai’s foreign trade and helping the emirate continue its pivotal role in promoting global trade and tourism.

“Dubai Customs has launched its five-year strategy for the period 2021-2026, which outlines nine goals and four main objectives in developing customs operations. Dubai Customs received the Agile Organization Certification from the American Business Agility Institute (BAI), thereby becoming the first agile government organization in the world. As part of enhancing cooperation with export funding entities, Dubai Customs signed an MoU with Etihad Export Credit Insurance Company (ECI) to facilitate greater export performance in the emirate. Meanwhile, the Department is set to host the 5th WCO Global AEO Conference in cooperation with the Federal Customs Authority and the World Customs Organisation in May in Dubai.”

Dubai’s direct trade in 2020 totaled $196.5 billion, while trade through free zones reached $126.3 billion and customs warehouse trade weighed in at $1.9 billion. Airborne trade accounted for $152.1 billion. Sea trade reached $114.6 billion while land trade touched $55.2 billion.

With $38.6 billion in exchange, China remained Dubai’s most important trading partner in 2020. India was second with $24.2 billion, and the US became third with $16.6 billion.

With $14.7 billion in trade, Saudi Arabia remained Dubai’s largest Gulf and Arab trade partner and fourth-largest global trade partner, followed by Iraq in the fifth position with $11.1 billion.

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