The UAE and Australia entered an agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy in 2014. How has this improved bilateral relations between the two countries so far?
The nuclear cooperation agreement has added another important strand to our strategic bilateral relationship with the UAE as it moves to adopt ambitious targets for low carbon energy production, and reduce its reliance on oil. The UAE is already our largest trading partner in the Middle East. The Australia-UAE Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy is necessary for Australian uranium to be used in civilian nuclear power generation in the UAE. Bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements set out strict conditions for the peaceful use, safeguarding, and security of Australian uranium supply.
In 2015, UAE investment in Australia amounted to AUD12.5 billion (AED35.25 billion), with sovereign wealth funds such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) being the major investors. What investment opportunities does Australia provide, particularly for the UAE's private sector?
The UAE is already a significant investor in Australia, particularly through sovereign wealth funds like the ADIA, which became the largest hotel owner in Australia with its 2103 purchase of 31 Accor-branded hotels. Total UAE investment in Australia was estimated at AUD12.5 billion in 2015. Looking to other opportunities, Australia is currently undertaking major infrastructure investments, and looking for foreign investors to participate in a wide range of projects including roads, rail, dams and other water infrastructure. I encourage UAE investors to consider the opportunities offered for partnerships in such projects right across Australia. There is also a particular focus on developing northern Australia in this regard, and Australia now has a dedicated Minister for Northern Australia, Senator the Hon. Matt Canavan.
Earlier in 2016, Sharjah's great investment potential in sectors such as tourism, environment, health, and transport was promoted at a Sharjah-Australia business roundtable. How will the Emirate's rewarding business climate increase opportunities for Australian investors, and which sector looks the most promising?
Australia is aware that the UAE is the second largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia, and that the UAE has been building on its traditional oil and gas wealth by diversifying into new economic activities. There are already over 360 Australian companies with a presence in the UAE and working in a range of sectors, including in agricultural supplies and services. There are now 130 return air flights per week operating between the UAE and Australia; therefore, there are expanding opportunities for commercial contact and two-way tourism.
Despite socio-political turbulence and falling commodity prices in the MENA region, the UAE remains the most stable and diversified economy. What is your outlook for the UAE in the medium term, and how do you envision future relations between Australia and the UAE?
The UAE is Australia's largest trading partner in the Middle East and 16th largest overall, with two-way goods and services trade worth AUD8.8 billion in 2015. As the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, naturally I take a particular interest in our bilateral agricultural and food trade including related services trade. Australia will remain a reliable supplier of safe and high quality food and agricultural products to the UAE. Australia exported AUD913.2 million of agricultural goods to UAE in 2015. The top 5 agricultural exports to the UAE in 2015 were sheep meat (AUD190.4 million), beef (AUD 97.6 million), rape or colza (AUD 92.8 million), almonds (AUD 72.6 million), and dairy preparations (AUD 68.2 million).