Export Metropolis

Infrastructure and location help make the emirate a global trading hub but global supply connections are critical

In the long geographic arc between Asia and Europe there is one port and one airport that mean everything to international business people — and both are located in Dubai.

In 2014, Port Jebel Ali was the world’s most productive container facility, out of 771 ports worldwide, and the largest in the Middle East.

Dubai International Airport is now the world’s busiest. More than 70 million passengers flew into Dubai last year, overtaking the number-one status of London’s Heathrow.


The excellence of Dubai’s infrastructure logistics is also found in the city’s high-quality roads, highways and telecommunications networks, as well as the promise of future projects such as a rail network connecting Kuwait to Muscat.

But great infrastructure is just one reason why Dubai is a global trade centre.

Sitting at the crossroads of East and West, Dubai is a switching point for trade with a region of 2.2 billion people in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the CIS, Central Asia and India.

From the emirate of Dubai thousands of container ships and aircraft have easy access to the bustling, lucrative markets in Africa, across the Arabian Gulf in Iran and India, and the greater Middle East itself.

In 2014, Dubai’s total non-oil trade with about 179 economies was worth AED1.33 trillion. Since 1988, Dubai’s total trade has grown by an average of 11 per cent per annum.

Besides its geographic good fortune and time-zone advantage, Dubai is increasingly benefiting from the growth in transnational supply chains that traverse economies in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

An OECD report found that global value chains are now the key way in which companies can find new business in trade and investment. The income from trade flows within global value chains has doubled between 1995 and 2009, according to the report.

Supplying global supply chains with basic inputs is critical and Dubai is the Middle East’s major re-export centre and the world’s third largest after Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Jebel Ali Free Zone, for example, has more than 600 automotive companies that re-export vehicle and engine parts and accessories to markets in places such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan.

And automotive parts trade has grown by 27 per cent in the four years to the end of 2013, according to an Oxford Business Group report.

The pro-business efficiency of Dubai’s regulations has also allowed exporters to start up business more easily, to lower costs and improve delivery times to customers.

The World Bank in its Doing Business report for 2015 ranked the United Arab Emirates as the best place to do business in the Middle East and the 22nd in the world out of 189 economies.

That puts Dubai ahead of Saudi Arabia as a great place to invest or start a business, and well above the regional average.

More importantly, the UAE ranked eighth in the World Bank’s critical measure of how easy it is to trade across borders or the cost and procedures required to ship goods.

The incentives provided by Dubai’s Free Zones, such as exemptions from import and re-export duties, also facilitate trade, along with the absence of exchange controls, corporate and personal taxes.

Dubai’s success as a trading hub has also attracted investment from many of the world’s biggest companies, which have established offices to benefit from its dynamic economic system and international links.

Promising developments in trade and investment with Iran are emerging following that nation’s nuclear deal with the international community. There is also an increasing awareness that Dubai is a safe haven for investors in an unstable region.

Put together, these forces are creating an exciting scenario for Dubai’s future as a global trading metropolis and a centre for international supply chains.

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