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Dubai’s non-oil external trade reaches Dh1.18 trillion in 2020

Dubai: Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade strongly rebounded from the challenges posed by the global economic repercussions of COVID-19 and the suspension of business activity by countries across the world in the first half of last year to record high growth in 2020.

Dubai’s foreign trade in 2020 touched Dh1.182 trillion. Total trade volume in 2020 reached 100 million tonnes, driven by a 6 per cent year-on-year volume growth in the second half of the year.

Overall value of exports in 2020 grew 8 per cent to Dh167 billion while imports accounted for Dh686 billion and re-exports totalled Dh329 billion.

“The exceptional growth performance of Dubai’s external trade sector reflects the emirate’s impressive resilience and its ability to recover and grow amidst international crises. Dubai has set an example for the world in dealing with both the economic and health repercussions of the pandemic. We were able to quickly renew our momentum of growth and reestablish our global leadership in various sectors,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai.

Five-year plan

“The external trade sector’s distinctive growth in 2020 will boost the implementation of Dubai’s five-year plan to expand its external trade to Dh2 trillion, consolidating the emirate’s position as a leading regional and global trade and investment hib. Dubai’s new international trade map will see an expansion in air and sea navigation routes, with 200 new cities set to be added to the emirate’s existing network of 400 cities,” said Sheikh Hamdan.

Impressive growth

Dubai’s direct trade in 2020 totalled Dh711 billion, while trade through free zones reached Dh464 billion and customs warehouse trade weighed in at Dh7 billion. Airborne trade accounted for Dh559 billion. Sea trade reached Dh421 billion while land trade touched Dh203 billion.

Dubai’s external trade sector impressively overcame the impact of a global trade downturn in 2020. With the gradual opening of borders, Dubai’s trade volumes started recovering and growing quickly in the second half of 2020.

In the third quarter, Dubai’s trade surged 34 per cent compared to Q2, and in Q4, trade grew by 7 per cent to Dh326 billion compared to Q3. Trade volumes in the second half of 2020 expanded by 6 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2019. Overall, 100 million tonnes of goods were traded in 2020, which reflects the rapid recovery of this sector. This rebound is now spurring greater growth in 2021.

Dubai's trading partners Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

The resumption of trade with Qatar, the start of trade engagement with Israel, the positive spin-offs from hosting EXPO 2020 and the launch of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan will all contribute to accelerating the emirate’s growth momentum.

“To develop the external trade sector and play a greater role in maintaining Dubai’s leading position in global trade, the Dubai Chamber has been restructured by creating three new chambers of commerce. The new chambers will enhance support for the trade sector by creating new solutions for the needs of investors and companies as part of a strategy to grow the emirate’s global trade in line with the vision of Dubai’s leadership for the next 50 years,” said Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman & CEO and Chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation.

Dubai Customs has launched its five-year strategy for the period 2021-2026, which outlines nine goals and four main objectives in developing customs operations. Dubai Customs received the Agile Organization Certification from the American Business Agility Institute (BAI), thereby becoming the first agile government organisation in the world.

Key trading partners

China maintained its position as Dubai’s largest trading partner in 2020 with Dh142 billion worth of trade. India came in second with Dh89 billion, followed by the USA in third place with Dh61 billion. Saudi Arabia continued to be Dubai’s largest Gulf and Arab trade partner and its fourth largest global trade partner with Dh54 billion worth of trade, followed by Iraq in the fifth place with Dh41 billion.

Gold topped the list of commodities in Dubai's 2020 external trade at Dh213 billion, followed by telecoms at Dh153 billion. Diamonds came third with Dh64 billion, followed by petroleum oils with Dh57 billion and jewellery with Dh47 billion.