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UAE opposed to protectionism, top official says

Dubai: An undersecretary at the Ministry of Economy on Monday said the country opposes protectionism policies as he reiterated the UAE’s commitment to liberalisation policies and attracting foreign investments.

Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Economy, said that protectionism was not a tool to protect economies and will not help maintain sustainable growth.

“As a UAE policy, we do not believe protectionism is good for growth in any economy. The UAE is always supportive in any negotiations for more liberalisation on the global system …” he said.

“An open economy is the best policy for attracting investments, for increasing and creating competitiveness, and it’s better for future development plans. So, we don’t believe that protectionism will bring much better prosperity for the economy.”

Al Saleh said the UAE government believes competition and collaboration between countries are better tools for growth of the global economy and individual countries.

He added this was part of the GCC’s policies in negotiating trade deals.

His comments come as the UAE tries to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) and is working on legislation to open up the limits of foreign ownership in certain sectors of the economy.

Al Saleh was speaking on Monday at a press conference to announce details of the Annual Investment Meeting, taking place next week in Dubai to discuss various issues relating to boosting FDI.

The undersecretary said the event would highlight the role of digitisation, blockchain, and the fourth industrial revolution in attracting FDI.

Such focus on FDI comes amid growing protectionist rhetoric in developed markets, namely the US where President Donald Trump in March announced tariffs on around $50 billion to $60 billion worth of imports from China.

The tariffs have since been updated to include billions more worth of imports.

Al Saleh said the UAE still welcomes investment from any part of the world, and noted that the country saw an 8.5 per cent year-on-year increase in FDI in 2016, with investment values reaching $9 billion.

According to figures from the UAE Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, FDI inflows into the country reached $10.3 billion in 2017.

The Annual Investment Meeting this year will focus on investments in energy, manufacturing, tourism, finance, real estate, and infrastructure.

Among the topics it will discuss are public-private partnerships, creating value through technology, and entrepreneurship.

More than 1,000 investors are expected to attend, with 51 countries setting their own pavilion at the event.

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