What have been some of the most significant recent policy initiatives?
The UAE has adopted a pioneering, flexible, and open economic policy in order to build a diversified, sustainable, and highly competitive economy based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and R&D, in line with UAE Vision 2021. In this regard, the issuance of the new FDI law is of great significance in terms of incentives provided to foreign investors in the country. The new law allows up to 100% foreign ownership of companies in select economic sectors, including agriculture, industry and services, innovation, technology, scientific research, and other creative fields. Most recently, the introduction of the “golden card" permanent residency scheme grants long-term residency status to investors, businessmen, and talented professionals. To further complement these efforts, local governments at the Emirate level have launched new packages of incentives and facilities to attract investment inflows into vital sectors. Among the most prominent of government decisions taken recently to stimulate the country's business environment is the cancellation of a mandatory bank guarantee for private sector companies once their employees' residence permits are confirmed. Instead, the new system of employment insurance will be worth AED60 annually, instead of AED3,000 for the previous bank guarantee. Apart from exempting transit tourists from all fees for the first 48 hours, facilities have been granted for those wishing to obtain employment opportunities in the country, through a temporary residency permit for a period of six months without fees. There is also a provision for talented students to extend their residency for two years after graduation, which will allow them to explore their options in the country.
How does the rising level of trade protectionism throughout the world affect the strategic planning of the ministry?
Protectionist trade policies have adverse effects on global trade in general, and we are not immune to it. Considering our strong partnerships with the US and China, the UAE is keen to remain impartial and hopes that a consensus will be reached because it hinders global trade. The UAE remains committed to pursuing a policy of openness and partnership with various countries. This approach is based on our strong belief in the values of openness and eradicating barriers, which will enable us to protect the country's commercial interests, thereby limiting the impact of these tensions on the UAE's economy. Simultaneously, we will continue to work with friendly and partner countries to revoke trade restrictions through bilateral, regional, or global legislation and agreements. Exploration of new economic destinations and diverse markets to increase UAE's exports, promote re-exports, and diversification of destinations for imports to build stronger trade partnerships and broader economic cooperation is another major focus area. In addition, we are continuing our efforts to find solutions to the problems arising from protectionist policies through consultative channels and mechanisms adopted by WTO. To facilitate the access of UAE exports to international markets, the Ministry of Economy supports the movement of Emirati goods to foreign markets through the National Committee for Export Development, which has the membership of all federal and local authorities concerned with this vital sector. The ministry also participates in many meetings and platforms, most notably joint economic committees, that bring countries together with trade partners in order to enable the private sector to explore trade opportunities and new markets, and successfully address challenges.
Over the next decade, what role do you see the UAE playing in the Belt and Road Initiative, and what advantages will this bring to the national economy?
Since the BRI's inception, the UAE has been actively participating in all forums and activities associated with it. A number of promising development projects have been announced in connection with the BRI as well. Furthermore, the UAE's expertise and accumulated experience in the field of logistics services and successful experiences in areas such as free zones, infrastructure, and port management are also being leveraged to ensure the success of these projects. Futhermore, China has invested nearly USD64 billion in countries located along the BRI between 2014 and 2017, with two of the megaprojects in the UAE. The UAE recently launched the World Logistics Passport initiative to open new paths for trade between the East with the West and enhance Dubai's and the UAE's ability to support global trade and economy.