Trade Profile

flag United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates: Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

The United Arab Emirates is among the world’s most dynamic markets in terms of foreign trade, with trade accounting for 168% of the GDP according to latest available data from World Bank. The country is one of the world's top 20 largest exporters and importers of commodities and the largest trading nation of the Middle East. Oil products are by far the largest item of exports (the country is the world’s 5th oil exporter), followed by radio-telephony transmission tools, gold, jewellery and diamonds. Petroleum oils and gold are also among major imports, along with radio-telephony transmission tools, jewellery, transport equipment (mostly cars), diamonds, machinery and foodstuffs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of trade dropped sharply in 2020, but recovered in 2021. According to IMF estimates, the volume of exports of goods and services increased by 2.2% compared to 2020, while the volume of imports increased by 1.1%. The IMF forecast a rebound in the volume of trade in 2022, with exports increasing by 4.5% and imports by 5.3%.

Saudi Arabia is the top destination of Emirati exports, followed by Iraq, India, Switzerland, Oman and China. China, the United States, India, Japan and Germany are among United Arab Emirates' main suppliers of goods and services. The recent UAE-Israel normalization deal, which comprises trade and technology cooperation and allows UAE oil to be sent directly to Europe via an Israeli pipeline, will positively impact trade. Bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE will reach USD 2 billion by 2022, up 50% from 2021, according to estimates by the UAE-Israel Business Council (Atalayar).

The United Arab Emirates has a structurally positive trade balance, but the surplus is closely linked to global oil prices. The UAE external balance on goods and services represented 26% of GDP in 2019 (World Bank). According to WTO data, in 2020 the UAE exported USD 319.3 billion worth of goods and USD 61.3 billion of services, importing USD 225.7 billion worth of goods and USD 58.2 billion worth services (Comtrade). Compared to 2018, exports of goods decreased by -2.9% in 2019, while imports increased by 3.6% (World Bank, latest data). Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, UAE’s non-oil foreign trade recorded a 27% growth in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020 (Emirates News Agency).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 225,000273,710261,538267,937225,741
Exports of Goods (million USD) 265,900313,547387,910389,373319,278
Imports of Services (million USD) 83,21370,58171,01486,86258,162
Exports of Services (million USD) 63,41769,58270,87889,28561,266

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20152016201720182019
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 175.2176.7175.0159.7160.9
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -5.72.73.010.93.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 5.23.4-2.511.5-2.9
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 74.475.775.466.768.5
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 100.9101.099.693.092.5

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 2.24.55.34.74.3
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 1.15.35.64.44.5

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
Saudi Arabia 6.2%
India 5.6%
Iraq 3.4%
Hong Kong SAR, China 2.5%
Oman 2.4%
See More Countries 79.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
China 14.9%
India 6.0%
United States 4.9%
Japan 3.1%
Turkey 2.8%
See More Countries 68.4%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

335.3 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 31.4%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 14.2%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 8.7%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 6.1%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 6.1%
See More Products 33.5%
247.0 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 15.1%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 8.7%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 8.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 6.5%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.2%
See More Products 57.2%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import/Export Flows.

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
UAE Dirham (AED)
Exchange Rate Regime
The Emirates dirham has a fixed parity with the U.S. Dollar. There is no exchange control.
Level of Currency Instability
The AED is pegged to the dollar at a rate of USD 1 = AED 3.6725.
Exchange Rate on :

 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
American Dollar (USD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 AED 0.270.270.270.270.27

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
International Economic Cooperation
The United Arab Emirates is a member of the following international economic organisations: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), ICC, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA), IMF, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), G-77, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), WTO, Arab League, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates the United Arab Emirates click here. International organisation membership of the United Arab Emirates is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by the United Arab Emirates can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Party of the TIR Convention
No

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Goods shipped to the United Arab Emirates should be accompanied by the following documents :

  • The single administrative document
  • The commercial invoice
  • A phytosanitary certificate
  • A health certificate
  • An export certificate for processed products, certifying that the prouct is fit for human comnsumption. It should be attested by the competent authority.
  • A certificate of origin
  • A certificate of radioactive non-contamination
  • A hala certificate (animals must have been slaughtered according to Islamic rite)
  • A transport certificate
  • A supplier's certificate
  • Transport documents and packing list

These shipment documents should be attested by the competent national trade body and by the UAE Embassy in the country of origin.

To go further, check out our service Shipping documents.

Free-trade zones
The UAE offers investors more than 40 multidisciplinary free-trade zones, in which expatriates and foreign investors can have full ownership of companies. All FTZs provide 100% import and export tax exemptions, exemptions from commercial levies, repatriation of capital and profits, multi-year leases, easy access to ports and airports, buildings for lease, energy connections often at subsidized rates, and assistance in labor recruitment. The full list of free-trade zones in each Emirate can be consulted on the portal of the Ministry of the Economy.
For Further Information
UAE Federal Customs Authority
Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Non Tariff Barriers
It is prohibited to import irradiated food, and the import of alcohol, tobacco and pork is governed by a strict quota system. All beef or poultry-based products must be accompanied by a health certificate from the country of origin.
The UAE is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In 1981, the GCC established an agreement (Unified Economic Agreement) according to which all farm, animal and industrial products as well as natural resources of the member states should be exempt from customs duties or any other tax when traded within the GCC. The GCC is presently in talks with the European Union, Japan and the USA regarding future free-trade agreements.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
No dispute concerning UAE import regulations has been reported to WTO.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
United Arab Emirates and WTO
The UAE Chambers of Commerce
Contact the UAE Chambers.
Contact Dubai Chamber.
Contact Abu Dhabi Chamber.

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Standards

National Standards Organisations
Website of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA)
Integration in the International Standards Network
The UAE has been integrated into the international standardisation system since the ESMA became a member of the International Organisation for Standardisation and the International Communication Union. Moreover, there has been a regional effort by member countries of the Gulf Council to meet requirements related to standards in the framework of the Customs Union.
Obligation to Use Standards
Certains standards of ESMA are obligatory while others are voluntary. Moreover, for certain sectors like construction, it is useful to ask for a technical agreement of the municipality. This is not an obligation but it can faciliate the procedures. For foodstuffs, the health services of each municipality enforce the regulations and standards for local or imported food products. The national and emirate governments, as well as professional associations, are constantly reviewing standards requirements. This is particularly true for the construction industry. Currently, government agencies and private firms stipulate the standards on a project-by-project basis.
Classification of Standards
UAE + S + GSO followed by either a digit code corresponding to the area or a letter code and figures, and then the year. Internally, the code is composed of two digits corresponding to the product section, then a number composed of 2 to 3 digits based on the degree of detail.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
ESMA has formulated the Emirates Conformity Assesment Scheme (ECAS) system, which is a system of standards which shall become obligatory for a range of products based on decision no. 114/2 of the cabinet.
Online Consultation of Standards
The norms and standards are available on the website ESMA. This is a paid service and technical guides have to be ordered.
Certification Organisations
ESMA Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology

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Latest Update: September 2022