Exporting to the United Arab Emirates

Advantages and challenges of exporting to the United Arab Emirates

There are advantages and disadvantages of doing business in the United Arab Emirates.

Advantages of exporting to the UAE

  • a diverse economy which is continually growing and expanding
  • proximity to other Gulf markets - acts as an entry route to other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries
  • an important market for re-export into other countries
  • no taxation on personal income and capital gains
  • ranked 21st overall in World Bank’s ease of doing business report, but first in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region
  • English is widely spoken and accepted as the language of business
  • its strategic geographical location – Dubai is regarded as a regional hub and commercial capital for the Middle East, north Africa and beyond
  • the UAE is the UK’s largest export market in the region
  • large expatriate population
  • one of the most liberal trade regimes in the Gulf attracting capital from across the region

Challenges of exporting to the UAE

The UAE can be a demanding and frustrating market to do business. However it doesn’t present major challenges to UK companies wanting to develop trade. Competition for business is fierce from the high growth Asian economies as well as the more traditional competitors in Europe and north America.

Each Emirate retains control of regulatory powers. This covers commercial activities such as issuing of trade licences and the incorporation of corporate entities, where the activity is not already regulated under federal legislation. The interaction of federal laws, individual emirate laws and free zone laws can be complex and confusing.

Other unique challenges include:

  • restrictions on company ownership by non-GCC nationals (a national sponsor must retain 51 per cent ownership)
  • Arabic will often be the first language and documentation will be in Arabic - although English is recognised as the language of business