BEYOND THE SEA

Panama 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hamad Buamim, CEO & President of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on the chamber's most recent trip to Latin America and room for growth between Panama and Dubai.

Hamad Buamim
BIOGRAPHY
Hamad Buamim has been the CEO & President of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry since November 2006. Educated in the US, Buamim graduated from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles in 1996 with a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering. In 2002, he obtained an MBA in finance from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recently finished its trade mission to Latin America. How would you assess this trip?

This trade mission to Latin America achieved its objectives of strengthening trade relations with promising markets within the region, while providing a platform that has enabled businesses on both sides to take a pro-active approach to boosting trade and investment. The opening of our first representative office in Latin America, in São Paulo, was a major step in enhancing economic cooperation with the region. Establishing our presence in the region will help us effectively promote Dubai as an attractive trade and investment hub, and attract Latin American companies that plan to expand to Dubai and access markets in the GCC and Africa. During the trade mission, Paraguay's President, HE Horacio Cartes, announced plans to open the country's first commercial representative office in the UAE later this year, and said that all the necessary resources and facilities would be provided to support the expansion of UAE businesses and investors into Paraguay. We were very encouraged by the strong commitment on the part of the Paraguayan officials and business leaders who are actively looking to strengthen trade relations with the UAE and increase bilateral trade and investment.

Which economic sectors hold the largest potential for growth between Panama and Dubai in the medium term?

Panama is Dubai's fourth-largest trading partner in Latin America with bilateral trade in 2016 valued at USD21 million. Agricultural commodities and food products account for the largest share of this volume. Yet, when you look at the untapped potential that exists in this dynamic market, it becomes clear that there is still plenty of room to expand trade to other high-potential sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, and tourism. As a trade and logistics hub, Panama can serve as a major gateway for UAE businesses to access the Latin America region, and the chamber is looking into opening a representative office in Panama in the near future. The recent expansion of the Panama Canal has made trade with Latin America a lot more efficient, while it has opened up new prospects for global trade, which stand to benefit businesses in the UAE.

In what way can Panama and the UAE collaborate to create a more enabling business environment for businesses keen to open up avenues of trade?

The UAE's plans to open an embassy in Panama this year and Panama's move to upgrade its consulate in the UAE to an embassy are signs which indicate that the two countries are committed to strengthening ties and enhancing economic cooperation. Going forward, the launch of direct flights between Panama and the UAE would be a major step in expanding bilateral trade, while it also stands to boost tourism markets in both countries. In addition, the adoption of more investment treaties, free trade agreements, and double taxation agreements between the UAE and Latin American countries would eliminate trade and investment barriers and help build bridges between business communities on both sides.

How have FDI flows between the UAE and Latin America regions developed over the last few years, and what sectors have attracted the most investment?

UAE investments within Latin America's industrial sector have been growing over the last decade, while ports and logistics has been another key area that has seen a great deal of interest. DP World, the largest Gulf investor in Latin America, is estimated to have invested USD4 billion across the region to date, according to a recent whitepaper from the Economist Intelligence Unit and Dubai Chamber. The Dubai-based container port operator has expanded to Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador, while the company is exploring opportunities that have been created by the Panama Canal expansion. Enhancing cooperation between UAE businesses and their Latin American counterparts supports the objectives of the 2030 Dubai Industrial Strategy, which aims to stimulate the industrial sector, and attract foreign investment to key sectors.