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, which accounts for 167% of the GDP according to the 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 in the Middle East. According to the World Trade Outlook and Statistics report by the WTO, in 2022, the UAE ranked 11th globally in goods exports, totalling USD 599 billion, representing 2.4% of global merchandise exports and a growth of 41%. The country also ranked 18th in merchandise imports, reaching USD 425 billion, contributing to 1.7% of world merchandise imports, with a 22% increase. In the realm of services, the UAE was ranked 12th globally in service exports in 2022, amounting to USD 154 billion, making up 2.2% of the world's total service exports. Additionally, the country secured the 18th spot in service imports, totalling USD 95 billion, constituting 1.5% of global service imports. Oil products are by far the largest item of exports (the country is the world’s 4th oil exporter), followed by gold, telephone sets, diamonds, and motor cars. Gold is also among the major imports, along with telephones, diamonds, and motor cars (data Comtrade).

Saudi Arabia is the top destination of Emirati exports (5.4%), followed by India (4.9%), Iraq (4.2%), the U.S. (2.2%), Oman (2.1%), and Hong Kong (2%). China (16%), India (6.5%), the United States (5.1%), Japan (2.9%) and Turkey (2.3%) are among the UAE's main suppliers of goods and services (data Comtrade 2022). Recently, the country signed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with Indonesia and India, with more agreements under discussion with partners like Turkey, Colombia, Ukraine, Cambodia, etc.

The United Arab Emirates has a structurally positive trade balance, but the surplus is closely linked to global oil prices. In 2022, the country recorded a trade surplus accounting for 25.3% of its GDP (World Bank). Preliminary estimates by the UAE government indicate that non-oil foreign trade reached a record AED 1.239 trillion in H1 2023, representing a growth of 14.4% compared to the same period in 2022 and 3% more than H2 2022. The contribution of non-oil exports to the UAE's total foreign trade was 16.6% in H1 2023. Re-exports and imports in the UAE also saw notable expansions: the total value of re-exports amounted to AED 341 billion, marking a 9.9% growth compared to H1 2022 and a 2.2% increase from the second half of 2022. Imports surged to AED 693 billion, indicating a 17.5% rise compared to H1 2022 and a 2.6% uptick from the second half of 2022. China maintained its status as the top global trading partner for the UAE, with India, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia following closely behind.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 244,688288,447246,961347,529420,510
Exports of Goods (million USD) 387,964389,428335,297425,160532,797
Imports of Services (million USD) 72,32188,19661,86576,10696,917
Exports of Services (million USD) 71,83190,26578,121101,838154,667

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO), Latest data available.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 170.9172.8157.9167.4166.6
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.73.010.9-5.5-6.4
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 3.4-2.511.5-1.3-7.0
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 73.274.565.970.770.6
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 97.798.392.096.795.9

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 3.43.53.74.04.3
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 4.23.52.73.43.8

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook, Latest data available.

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
Saudi Arabia 5.4%
India 4.9%
Iraq 4.2%
United States 2.2%
Oman 2.1%
See More Countries 81.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
China 16.0%
India 6.5%
United States 5.1%
Japan 2.9%
Türkiye 2.3%
See More Countries 67.3%

Source: UN Comtrade Database, Latest data available.

 

Main Products

515.6 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 30.0%
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 15.8%
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 6.9%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 6.5%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 5.5%
See More Products 35.4%
420.5 bn USD of products imported in 2022
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 14.1%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 7.7%
Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted...Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted or set (excl. unmounted stones for pick-up styluses, worked stones, suitable for use as parts of meters, measuring instruments or other articles of chapter 90) 4.2%
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) 4.1%
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 3.8%
See More Products 66.0%

Source: UN Comtrade Database, Latest data available.

 
 

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
UAE Dirham (AED) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 0.100.110.110.100.09

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

 
 

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

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
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
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

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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: April 2024