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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue


Introduced by U.S Department of State Near East Asia Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Timothy Lenderking

Thank you, Timothy, for that kind introduction, and to Ambassador Rakolta, for organizing today’s important dialogue.

And my thanks to Secretary Pompeo for your incredible leadership on last month’s breakthrough peace agreements in the Middle East.

The Abraham Accords have transformed the dynamics of the Middle East, and provided so many people with hope. Thank you for hosting today’s discussion.

A warm welcome also to His Excellencies Abdullah bin Zayed and Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi who join us this morning. I am pleased that we can meet together today to discuss expanding the commercial ties between our two nations.

This dialogue is critical as we rise from the global challenges facing both our nations this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our countries represent two of the most innovative and advanced economies in the world. So I am pleased that our relationship remains strong as we make progress through economic recovery.

The UAE is our third largest trading partner in the MENA region, with more than $24 billion in two-way trade in 2019. U.S. foreign direct investment in UAE was $27.6 billion last year, up $2.7 billion since 2016, and led by the mining, wholesale trade, and manufacturing sectors. Emirati FDI in the United States increased from $13.7 billion 2016 to $17.1 billion last year, with focused investments in the financial services, transportation, food and beverage, aerospace, business services and real estate industries.

While the current COVID crisis is still affecting the global trade system, I am encouraged by your nation’s flexibility as you continue working to diversify your economy. Your government’s recent reorganization is an example of how you are adjusting to become more agile in the current economic climate, and preparing for a commercial future that includes expansion into advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, commercial space, and innovative solutions to issues like food security.

The UAE’s work in improving its intellectual property rights environment is also reassuring. Your country is in its third year of appearing on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report Watch List for not providing adequate and effective protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights. However, your government’s recent passage of the new pharmaceutical IP regulation is a leap in the right direction and could make the UAE the best and safest place in the Middle East to bring innovative pharmaceutical and biotech investments and technology.

The Trump Administration is committed to making resources available to you in support of initiatives like this that encourage investment and strengthen commerce between our two countries.

To that end, my Department’s International Trade Administration is looking forward to our upcoming data privacy technical workshops with the UAE in December. U.S. companies have expressed concern about data localization efforts in the UAE. It cannot be overstated that adopting a data privacy framework based upon existing global models and best practices is critical to economic recovery and advancement.

During the workshops, there will be discussions on data flow regulations and a potential regional data framework. And in March next year ITA’s Global Markets team will host a two-day infrastructure roadshow in Abu Dhabi.

The first day’s “Infrastructure Conference” will enable UAE and regional government officials to present to an audience of U.S. companies and officials about their upcoming major projects in smart cities, energy, and infrastructure, and highlight how U.S. companies can get more involved.  The second day’s “Infrastructure Summit” will bring UAE and U.S. government officials together to discuss how they can strategically support increased participation of U.S. companies in UAE infrastructure projects.

These engagements will also offer great opportunities to engage on multiple Advocacy cases across the Gulf. Within ITA, the Advocacy Center (AC) is currently assisting U.S. companies with 42 procurement cases in United Arab Emirates. The cumulative total project value of these cases is approximately $10 billion, with $8.1 billion in expected U.S. export content. The principal industries covered by these cases include Aerospace and Defense, Safety and Security, and Energy. Since 2016, the AC has recorded 7 project wins in United Arab Emirates. The value of these wins totals approximately $2.3 billion, with $2.2 billion in U.S. export content.

I encourage you all here today to participate in both of these infrastructure events next Spring. I also hope to welcome a delegation from UAE once more to the 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit taking place June 6-9, 2021, in Washington, D.C. This event provides a unique opportunity for Emirati business executives to meet with economic development organizations from across the United States.

Finally, I commend the UAE for hosting and organizing the upcoming World Expo in Dubai. Our U.S. Commercial Service will engage the U.S. business community in the Expo’s U.S. Pavilion. And will join you to celebrate the Expo’s conclusion in March 2022 by bringing our flagship Trade Winds trade mission with over 100 U.S. companies to the UAE to explore export and trade opportunities. In the meantime, the U.S. Mission in UAE is ready and willing to assist you in any way we can.

Before I close, I have some exciting news. I am pleased to announce that the Department of Commerce is working to conclude two memorandums of understanding with Emirati government agencies. 

One will be on exchanging best practices for promoting foreign direct investment and the other will be on promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. These MOUs will support the broader goals of the Strategic Dialogue and specifically address the focus area of the Economic, Energy, and Commercial Partnership sub-committee.

Furthermore, we will announce in the coming months our second digital attaché to the Middle East Region. The attaché will cover digital trade issues and topics in the Gulf, and will be based in the UAE, allowing the U.S. to better respond to the growing importance of digital commercial issues in the Middle East.

I thank you all again for participating in today’s dialogue.  I look forward to today’s discussion and to deepening our nations’ close relationship in the years to come.