How would you describe the trade relationship between Dubai and its East Asian trading partners?

HAMAD BUAMIM: East Asia is one of our biggest trading blocks. It's around US$72 billion in 2015. That's around 20 percent of the total trade of Dubai. But when you look carefully to that, what's really important is the growth that we've been witnessing during the past four or five years. It's growing more than 50 percent. Of course, China is two-thirds of that trade. But Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong are also big contributors to the trade relationship. When you zoom into China, China by itself is around US$48 billion worth of trade. It has shown a great phenomenon of growth for us during the past five years. It grew from US$24 billion in 2010 to $48 billion. That's 100 percent growth.

We hope to be able, through the initiatives that we are doing, to continue this growth even further. To be able to cater for the demands, not only in Dubai and UAE, but the Middle East and Africa are very important for us. I would say the share of the trade of Dubai and the existence of Chinese companies here in Dubai is also part of the whole story where the growth is coming from.

What are the current trade levels between Dubai and China?

HAMAD BUAMIM: As I said, US$48 billion. But again, when you start analyzing that, 95 percent of that is export from China to Dubai and around US$2 billion is the export and re-export to China. Most of the products are electronics, machinery, textile, and chemicals. It's very important for us to continue the growth because, though we import a lot from China, but we re-export a lot of whatever we imported to the region. And this is really contributing also to grow the re-exports and the exports of Dubai further to Africa, to the Middle East, and different parts of our region.

How important is Dubai’s location for Chinese investors?

HAMAD BUAMIM: The proximity of Dubai is making it, I would say, the well-established city closest to markets of big interest for the Chinese, mainly I'm talking about Africa. Africa is the market that Chinese export to and import from, especially raw materials. And a lot of these markets are not well established. For the Chinese companies to be able to be close enough in well-established markets, this is what Dubai is offering. As I said, the platform where they can have great warehouses over here, the ports, the laws and regulations, and the ease of entry and the connectivity with Africa where they can, you know, whether they fly or they can ship from. And this infrastructure is making the life of Chinese businesses easier instead of operating from China. Because that's what London and Paris or New York cannot offer the Chinese, the proximity to areas of great interest for them such as Africa.

What initiatives is the Chamber undertaking to grow the relationship between Dubai and China South East Asia?

HAMAD BUAMIM: China is the factory of the world. It is one of the biggest economies. It is the biggest exporters for Dubai and United Arab Emirates. It's also our top trading partner. We have always been paying a lot of attention to the trade relationship between both sides and we are continuing to do more in the future to be able to expand this further, continue the growth, diversify it. Because we believe if we can continue growing the trade, we'll also grow the business and the economic relationship and also the business and economy of Dubai to be aligned with Dubai Plan 2021.

We've been involved in a number of investment forums, whether in China or Dubai, to be able to continue the dialogue and grow the relationship further. One thing we are paying more attention to is attracting more investments from China to Dubai, positioning Dubai as a hub for our part of the world. And this model been working quite well for us. Dubai Chamber is also opening offices all over the world. We realize the importance of South East Asia and in particular China. We are opening our office in Shanghai very soon and we believe this will be able to boost the relationship further. Again, the focus is trade, however, we start to pay more attention in investments on both sides, whether UAE investments in China or Chinese investments in Dubai.

Where is there opportunity to strengthen this bilateral relationship?

HAMAD BUAMIM: Dubai has an excellent relationship which I know contributed to the growth that we witnessed during the past five years. We have excellent infrastructure for Chinese companies to utilize Dubai as a hub, as a logistics hub, to cater for the Middle East and Africa, which are important regions for Chinese companies. Many initiatives are being put in place that have made Dubai world-class in infrastructure. This is shipping infrastructure, warehousing, the ports that we have, the airports, the airline connectivity with China from one side and with the region from the other side.

As I said, Chinese also look at the Middle East and Africa’s areas of opportunities and growth for the medium and short, and long term. And this is what makes Dubai as a great destination and logistics hub for Chinese companies to expand and to grow their relationship between both regions. Another area of opportunity that we believe that will contribute to grow investment and tourism further is the recent initiative from the UAE government to have visa on arrival for Chinese.

We believe this will boost the tourism from China to Dubai which today stands around 500,000 Chinese came to Dubai in 2015 and we believe this easing of visa will be able to grow that to Dubai and the rest of the UAE. Add to that also there is more and more focus in using the Chinese currency as a mode of payments, the RMB. We believe this would reduce the cost of business and boost the trade and the investments from both sides. A lot of things are happening in this arena that we believe with time we'll be able to continue the momentum of the growth between both of our economies.

I think when people feel comfortable to enter any markets, they start to become comfortable to mobilize their money to it. And they start to repeat that. That's when you know they start maybe with the apartment and then they start establishing a business. I mean we all realize a lot of Chinese businesses are located in Dubai because they are serving the interest of the whole region. This is what Dubai is really providing for Chinese companies, big markets from one side that they are selling to and also a platform that they can use to enter other markets, and it's working quite well.

We have always been talking about whether Shanghai and Dubai work together for the whole region and to be able to go beyond our boundaries into areas such as Africa which is a great opportunity for everyone. We have 200,000 Chinese in Dubai. But the interesting thing about this number is, if you look maybe 10 years ago, it was very, very small. We believe this number will continue growing. 4,000 companies in the UAE and we believe this number will continue growing further with the relationship that I just described.