Export Britain


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Ease of trading across borders

Importing a standard container of goods into UAE requires:



The UAE is the commercial fulcrum of the wider MENA region. Despite a small population of around 9.3 million, it punches above its weight economically and is the UK’s 11th biggest global export market, and 4th largest outside the EU. As well as housing the regional HQs of many of the world’s biggest companies, the UAE also has an emerging and thriving SME hub.

Economic snapshot (% annual growth rate)

GDP 3.1 3.8 3.0
Export of goods and services 0.2 3.4 5.3
Import of goods and services 12.3 -1.2 4.1
Inflation 2.3 4.1 3.2
Exchange rate (per $) 3.7 3.7 3.7
Population 1.9 1.8 1.4
Source: Oxford Economics

Economic outlook

The UAE’s economic growth may slow to 3.4% this year from 3.9% in 2012. The budget surplus will stay little changed at 5.7% of GDP. About 80% of the nation’s revenues are generated by hydrocarbon-related industries. The risks of the region being affected by the external situations fell substantially, thanks to the robust growth of the non-oil economic sectors and the successful efforts of Dubai and Abu Dhabi to diversify the base of economic growth. 

Trade outlook

The UAE’s exports will continue to be dominated by petroleum and related products, with exports forecasts to grow strongly to rapidly growing emerging markets that are heavy energy consumers such as India and China. Turkey and Poland will continue to post good growth. In addition to the main Asian economies, UAE exports will also rise strongly to those economies with large populations and with an associated heavy demand for energy, including Brazil and Egypt, when its economy starts to recover. On the import side, India and Turkey will be the two fastest-growing sources of imports however other emerging Asian economies will begin to increase their importance; such as Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Cultural tips

  • Despite the modernity you see, it is still a traditional Arabic trading economy.
  • Business is done face-to-face and is built on long term personal relationships.
  • Arabic is the official language, although the use of English is widespread. Produce presentation materials in both languages.  

Essential Customs tips

  • De minimis: No de minimis
  • Shipments valued above US$ 270 will be subject to a 5% duty and clearance delays will apply. If you are importing mobile phones and their accessories to private individuals, quantities are limited to 5. Companies receiving mobile phones and their accessories must have a valid importer registration with UAE customs. Shipments going to a Free Zone address in Dubai must be accompanied by the original invoice. 

SWOT analysis

Healthy and robust economy
Excellent infrastructure, geography and business connectivity (ports & planes)
Ideal base country to launch regional export journey
Dependence on oil
Inflation pressures
Enterprise free zones - goods for re-export or transhipment enjoy a 100% duty exemption
Oil price changes
High govt debt

UAE's trade with the UK

Sector segmentation growth

Sectors to watch:
  • Extraction
  • utilities


  • electrical equipment,
  • general purpose machinery.

Fastest-growing exporters into UAE

1 India
2 Turkey
3 China
4 Hong Kong
5 Vietnam
6 Bangladesh
7 Egypt
9 Canada
10 Poland

Total merchandise trade - Leading import partners

Total merchandise trade - leading import partners
Opportunities for UK businesses

The UAE offers many opportunities for British businesses in sectors such as healthcare, food & drink, retail, tech, infrastructure, tech & smart cities, education, and the Expo 2020, hosted in Dubai. 

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