Free Trade Zones

A year after the start of the Abrahamic Agreements, Israel’s trade with the United Arab Emirates exceeds $ 570 million.

A year after the Abraham’s accords began, some $ 570 million in business has been concluded between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In 2020 and in the first six months of 2021, Israel exported $ 197 million in goods and services to the United Arab Emirates and imported around $ 372 million.

Trade could reach $ 1 billion for the whole of 2021 and exceed $ 3 billion within three years, according to the UAE-Israel Business Council, an organization connecting businesses from the two countries.

On August 13, then-US President Donald Trump announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to normalize their relations. What followed has been a flurry of peace deals with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan that continue to reshape political alliances in the Middle East.

Since then, Israeli companies have started to recognize the potential offered by the UAE’s economic ecosystem, said Dorian Barak, investor and co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council.

“The Emirates is a place where people from all over the world come to engage in commerce, with unique advantages over other jurisdictions that make it a unique platform to reach the whole world,” said Barak. .

“It’s comparable to Hong Kong and Singapore in that they’re not just markets to sell to, they’re markets for the whole world. This is why the United Arab Emirates is the economic capital of the entire region. Every country has a presence there.

The UAE has more than 35 free trade zones offering tax exemptions, world-class technological infrastructure, and shipping and trading systems designed to make doing business as easy as possible, noted Ramy Jallad, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, at the Global Investment Forum in June, sponsored by The Jerusalem Post and the Khaleej Times.

“The Israelis are always looking for ways to do business in South Asia, East Africa, India and Bangladesh,” Barak said. “These are markets of two billion people, and you cannot work with them from Tel Aviv. The UAE is the place where everyone comes together to do business, and Israel has finally been admitted to this club. “

The first year of normalization with the UAE has been very successful, despite many challenges, said Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council and deputy mayor of Jerusalem.

“We have been facing a global pandemic, and it has hampered tourism, but we still had around 230,000 Israelis visiting the UAE,” Hassan-Nahoum said. who has tourism. “Imagine what could have been done if there had been no pandemic. “

“We also went through a conflict with the Palestinians in May, and it was not easy, but both sides came out with determination to maintain the relationship. Normalization didn’t make the press more neutral there, and they still demonized Israel a lot. Our friends contacted us with a lot of questions. So we have organized a number of seminars and briefings to lay out the facts. We encouraged them to ask us anything and said no question was too uncomfortable to ask. This is how a relationship becomes stronger, and we are a stronger group because of that.

“One cannot underestimate the power of a mutual desire for peace,” said Hassan-Nahoum. “Business is one of the best forums for creating warm peace, learning to trust each other and learning about the cultural sensitivities of each party. There are cultural differences. I hate to generalize, but Israelis often tend to be more transactional, while Emiratis are more relationship-oriented. The first year was mostly about getting to know each other and building those relationships. “

This is not all that has been done, however. Over half a billion dollars in business has been done between the two countries, and that does not include tourism or investment between the countries. The largest trade deal to date between the two countries has been the sale by Delek Drilling of its 22% stake in Tamar’s offshore natural gas field to Abu Dhabi’s Mubdala Petroleum Company for $ 1.1 billion. dollars in April.

“There are many large private investors in the UAE, and it is only a matter of time before more and more UAE companies are taking significant stakes in Israeli companies,” Barak said.

The UAE-Israel Business Council now has 4,000 members, split evenly between Israelis and Emiratis, Hassan-Nahoum said. She also co-founded the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum, which includes an equal distribution of nationals from Israel and from Gulf countries, some of which countries do not yet have relations with Israel. “What we did was we created the infrastructure for people to create business meetings together,” Hassan-Nahoum said.

Hassan-Nahoum proposed a list of business collaborations that were facilitated by his advice, in areas such as technology, green energy, banking, etc. “But beyond that, all areas of society have reached out for cooperation. I am involved in a project to bring Israeli and American best practices to people with special needs. There are projects being set up for art, football, culture. Even the Israeli little league baseball came to play in a tournament in Dubai.

As part of his work with the Jerusalem Municipality, Hassan-Nahoum is currently working on a project to bring R&D jobs from Emirati companies to East Jerusalem for the local Arab population. “things are moving very quickly,” said Hassan-Nahoum. “No one had imagined something like this.”