UAE-Spanish trade increased by 75 per cent from 1 billion euros in 2009 to 1.75 billion euros by end of 2012, Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri said on Wednesday at the Second UAE-Spain Joint Economic Committee which was held in Abu Dhabi.
“The UAE is one of Spain’s major trading partners in the Gulf, and it is truly encouraging to note the rising number of trade missions between our countries,” said Al Mansouri.
He called on the business communities in the UAE and Spain to explore the possibility of strengthening their collaboration, as well as joining forces in expanding into new markets together.
The Spanish delegation led by Luis de Guindos Jurado, Minister of Economy and Competitiveness, voiced interest of a number of international Spanish companies in the railway, metro and other transport infrastructure projects that are being developed in the UAE.
“We have very good experience and we are world leaders in desalination, water treatment and renewable energies. It is agreed that these sectors will be at the forefront of joint initiatives to foster strategic partnerships and projects of common interest,” said Jurado.
Al Mansouri pointed out that the UAE is keen to uphold the appropriate institutional framework to enhance economic ties with Spain through the Joint Economic Committee meetings, which can help both sides understand the real requirements of investors.
“The UAE’s status as an oasis of stability and progress and the most attractive business destination in the Middle East and North Africa has established our country as a strategic location for a number of Spanish companies.
At the same time, with Spain being a gateway to European markets, we have also witnessed a sustained growth of UAE investments in Spain over the last few years,” the UAE minister said.
He added that the UAE is keen to enhance cooperation with Spain in other key areas such as innovation, renewable energy, petrochemicals, construction, education, health care, transportation and tourism.
Both sides agreed on the need to ease Schengen visa procedures for UAE citizens in order to foster tourism.
Al Mansouri said that the UAE appreciated the leadership of the Spanish government within the Schengen countries to work for visa exemption to UAE nationals.
“We have considerable opportunities for cooperation in the tourism sector which has been witnessing major growth in recent years.
I am happy to state that the bilateral flow of tourists between the UAE and Spain reached close to 70,000 people in 2012, driven by increased air connectivity between our countries,” said Al Mansouri.
Both ministers voiced interest on closer cooperation between the UAE and Spain and one in which the Joint Council has a vital role to play, is small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“A healthy SME sector significantly contributes to capital accumulation, provides greater employment opportunities for a rapidly increasing workforce, and promotes regional development,” said Al Mansouri.
He added that a robust SME sector can help increase the resilience of the economy against external shocks, such as the recent global financial crisis.
“Therefore, the UAE is eager to encourage greater investments in the SME sector, to ensure sustainable growth by strengthening the non-oil sector and increase its contribution to the economy.
To achieve this, we are currently drafting a new SME law that will be issued soon,” he concluded.