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Revealed: how Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade performed amid coronavirus crisis

Dubai recorded AED551 billion ($150 billion) worth of non-oil external trade in the first half of 2020, figures released on Monday revealed.

The emirate did not provide a year-earlier comparison figure but Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World Group chairman & CEO and chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, said the figures showed Dubai’s ability to minimise the impact of the pandemic-induced global economic slowdown.

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Imports accounted for AED320 billion, exports AED77 billion, and re-exports AED154 billion, the data showed. A total volume of 44 million tonnes of goods were traded through Dubai including 30 million tonnes of imports, 8 million tonnes of exports and 6 million tonnes of re-exports.

China maintained its position as Dubai’s largest trading partner in H1 with AED66.4 billion worth of trade, followed by India, the United States and Switzerland. Saudi Arabia continued to be Dubai’s largest Gulf and Arab trade partner and its fifth largest global trade partner with AED24.1 billion worth of trade.

Gold, diamonds and jewellery topped the list of commodities in Dubai’s H1 external trade at AED140 billion, followed by telecoms, motors, petroleum oils and computers.

Foodstuff trade grew 15 percent to 9.1 million tons compared to the first half of 2019 with a value of AED32 billion while trade in medical supplies and medicines grew 19 percent to AED12.4 billion compared to H1 as the coronavirus pandemic took a grip.

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Sulayem said: “External trade is one of the key pillars of our economy. We are today reaping the fruits of the vision of our country’s founding leaders and our strong strategic planning, backed by decades of hard work in creating a robust trading and logistics infrastructure. Dubai’s external trade sector has shown a high level of preparedness in dealing with the crisis. It has provided exceptional trading facilities and services to help businesses around the world overcome the challenges of the current period,” he added.

During the pandemic, Dubai launched several stimulus packages under the directives of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to support the emirate’s business sector and reduce the impact of prevailing global economic conditions.

“The economy has efficiently navigated the turbulence in international markets by forging partnerships with markets less affected by the economic crisis. We are optimistic about the future and we will seek to constantly develop our trade business, especially by using new technologies to ensure optimum performance and provide quality trade services,” Sulayem said.

Despite the crisis, customs transactions processed by Dubai Customs surged 41 percent in H1 to reach 7.2 million transactions.

Dubai’s external trade showed considerable growth in May and June compared to April, a period in which widespread lockdowns were enforced across the globe to combat the pandemic.

Dubai’s external trade grew in May compared to April by 17.2 percent to reach AED75 billion, and again grew 20 percent in June compared to May to reach AED90 billion.

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Direct trade during H1 totalled AED320 billion, representing 58 percent of Dubai’s external trade, while trade through free zones reached AED227 billion (41 percent), and customs warehouse trade weighed in at AED4 billion (1 percent).

The figures also revealed that the pandemic has further accelerated the shift to online shopping as Dubai dispatched 4.3 million e-commerce parcels in H1, with transactions up 150 percent compared to the same period last year.

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