Israel relations

Dubai Expo in focus as UAE racks up $700 mln of trade with Israel since normalization

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Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations a year ago, are looking to Dubai’s Expo world fair in October to boost bilateral trade, which now stands at around $712 million.

While the figure, contained in Israeli data, is tiny compared to UAE exports of $24 billion in 2019 to its top destination Saudi Arabia, the Israeli government sees trade with the UAE rising to $1 billion by year-end.

Israel is aiming for $3 billion in three years, it said this week on its Arabic-language Twitter account.

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The UAE, which in a seismic move last August became the first Gulf state to normalize ties with Israel, promoted the accord’s economic benefits.

In September, the UAE and Bahrain both inked US-brokered deals to establish ties with Israel, followed by Sudan and Morocco.

The bulk of trade between the UAE and Israel, which have similar GDPs of around $400 billion, has involved imports from the Gulf’s dominant logistics and re-export hub, including plastics, electronics, auto parts and gems.

Israel recorded $457 million of imports from the UAE between January 2020 and June this year, and $255 million in exports to the UAE, its Central Bureau of Statistics said.

Dubai, which contains the region’s largest transhipment port at Jebel Ali, said in January that bilateral trade since September 2020 stood at $272 million.

Zeev Lavie of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) said normalization had expanded Israeli trade within the wider Middle East via the UAE. “We’re becoming much more regional,” he said.

Israel has traditionally exported to Arab countries via other states, or through complex structures outside the region.

Lavie said the UAE pact was encouraging trade with Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel has had peace deals for decades.

“A lot of the business community in those countries have seen that, no, it’s okay to do business in Israel ... We’ve seen much more interest from business people,” he said.

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