MGR: The UAE and the USA are entering their Golden Era, having started 50 years ago with the establishment of their diplomatic relations, which have developed into a strong alliance and solid partnership.
Sebright: Please describe the current economic relationship between the UAE and the USA.
The bilateral economic relationship is marked by over $23 billion in trade as well as large flows of foreign direct investment in both directions. Notably, the U.A.E. has been the single-largest export market for the U.S. in the MENA region since 2009, with over $17 billion worth of exports in 2021. One of the U.A.E.’s sovereign wealth funds, Mubadala Investment Company, has invested over $100 billion in the United States. Other U.A.E. sovereign wealth funds also have invested heavily in the U.S. over the last 20 years. In turn, more than 1,500 U.S. companies do business in the U.A.E. selling goods and services and helping to create high-paying jobs at home in the United States.
MGR: What is the role of the U.S.-UAE Business Council in facilitating American Emirati business and investment?
Sebright: The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council is dedicated to advancing commercial, trade, and business ties between the United States and the U.A.E. By leveraging its extensive networks in the United States and in the U.A.E., it provides unparalleled access to senior decision-makers in business and government with the aim of deepening bilateral trade and investment opportunities. Since its inception in 2007, the Council has grown to nearly 200 member companies, reflecting the strength of the bilateral economic and trade relationship, and has directly impacted key bilateral economic and trade policies and initiatives.
MGR: The two nations are world leaders in innovation and technology. What is the potential for collaboration in this field?
Sebright: In short, the potential is immense. The U.A.E. has quickly become one of the leading tech and innovation hubs in the Middle East. Fueled by the goal of diversifying the U.A.E. economy away from oil, leaders in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have taken meaningful steps to foster a knowledge-based, technology-driven economy of the future. The pandemic and the U.A.E.’s 50-year anniversary as a nation gave new impetus to these efforts in the form of a transformative series of economic and social reforms known as the “Projects of the 50,” aimed at making the U.A.E. an even more attractive destination for innovative start-ups, top talent, and tech entrepreneurs. Along those lines, the U.A.E. has undertaken a consultative process with the private sector to develop new digital laws and regulations that will create the backbone of the country’s future-forward economy.
Within this context, prominent U.S. companies—including Amazon, AMD, Cisco, Google, HPE, IBM, Oracle, Meta, Microsoft, and Palantir—are collaborating with Emirati public and private sector stakeholders on initiatives designed to accelerate innovation and the adoption of AI, blockchain, 3D printing, robotics, cloud computing, and digitization across the U.A.E.
I can assure you from my myriad conversations with leaders at these companies that there is a sincere desire to grow and deepen these partnerships in the many years to come.
MGR: What is your final message to our readers in the US and the MENA region regarding the future U.S.-UAE Economic Relations?
Sebright: There is tremendous potential for the further growth of the bilateral relationship, particularly in the areas of healthcare, energy and sustainability, space, advanced manufacturing, and the digital economy. These are all key focus areas for the Business Council. COP28 provides the most near-term opportunity for the growth of the bilateral relationship. The U.A.E.’s diversification plan over the last several decades has included significant investment in renewable energy sources including solar and nuclear energy. This energy transition agenda offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. companies and regional players to collaborate on innovations in this important sector. In fact, this week at Abu Dhabi Finance Week, we are engaging in conversations on sustainable finance as an area of increased private sector participation. Of course, the United States and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement to catalyze $100 billion in financing and investment on clean energy projects with a goal of adding 100 gigawatts globally by 2035. While this agreement generated headlines, the potential of COP28 extends to every sector and every aspect of sustainability, ranging from sustainable finance to healthcare.