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EU firms explore opportunities in the UAE

More than 50 companies from six European Union countries visited the United Arab Emirates last week as part of a five-day trade mission, meeting business and government organisations to explore business and investment opportunities. Organised by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (LCCI), the delegation included companies from Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and the United Kingdom.

The EU trade mission to the UAE was the largest ever to be organised by the London chamber, introducing companies from a wide range of industries including engineering, architecture, solar energy, education, fashion and design, information technology, food and drink, tourism, plus transport and logistics.

Bilateral trade between the European Union and the United Arab Emirates* reached €57.9 billion (AED 232.5b**) in 2015, compared with €50.9 billion (AED 227.3b) in 2014. UAE exports to the EU stood at €9.4 billion (AED 37.7b) for 2015, 14.8 percent up on 2014 exports, while EU exports to the UAE stood at €48.5 billion (AED 194.8b), a 13.6 percent increase on the EU’s 2014 exports.

Thousands of European companies currently operate in the UAE across a wide range of industrial sectors and Sharjah has been actively trying to increase European foreign direct investment and further grow its tourist numbers from Europe.

Sharjah is a regular exhibitor at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany and at World Travel Market in London, UK, Europe’s two largest tourism trade shows. Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) also recently opened an office in Germany, following a 64 percent increase in the number of German guests staying in Sharjah hotels during 2015. During the first six months of 2016, nearly 200,000 visitors from Europe stayed in Sharjah hotels, accounting for about 21 percent of the emirate’s hotel guests.

Meanwhile, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) opened a representative office in London earlier this year, in an effort to promote Sharjah’s benefits and incentives to prospective British investors. The authority, in addition to frequent trade missions and investor meetings with European companies, also organises an annual one-day trade and investment event in London called ‘Sharjah Day’, to provide British companies with the opportunity to meet with Sharjah government and private sector organisations.

Notable British companies already doing business in Sharjah include Gama Aviation, which opened a US$50 million business aviation terminal at Sharjah International Airport in 2014; and Chinook Sciences, which is currently building a GBP 300 million (AED 1.8 billion) energy-from-waste facility for Sharjah’s waste management and environment company Bee’ah.

Hundreds of European companies are also represented at Sharjah Airport Free Zone (SAIF Zone) and Hamriyah Free Zone, where foreign investors are allowed 100 percent ownership and enjoy a tax-free status.

Source: LCCI, media, Shurooq

* All trade figures from European Commission Directorate General for Trade 21 June 2016
** 2015 EUR amounts converted to AED at 31 December 2015 exchange rate; 2014 EUR amounts converted to AED at 31 December 2014 exchange rate

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