Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

The new Switzerland: diplomacy is key to UAE’s trade success

Emirates NBD's Maurice Gravier said the UAE would be a "probable winner" as trade restrictions increase Emirates NBD
Emirates NBD's Maurice Gravier said the UAE would be a "probable winner" as trade restrictions increase
  • UAE has kept up cordial relations with both East and West
  • Decade of ‘deglobalisation’ forecast by Emirates NBD investment report
  • Powers that ‘speak to both’ set to benefit, says bank’s Maurice Gravier

The UAE is “the new Switzerland” and poised to reap the benefits of its good relationships with both East and West, the investment boss of one of the Gulf’s leading banks has said.

Maurice Gravier, chief investment officer at Emirates NBD Group, said he believed the world needed neutral powers, “a place to speak between the blocs”.

He added: “For me, the UAE is the new Switzerland – there is no question. We see hedge funds coming to Dubai. That’s what happened in Switzerland as well.”

Gravier was speaking at the launch of the bank’s Global Investment Outlook 2023, which is predicting that the next decade will be dominated by “deglobalisation”, decarbonisation and ageing demographics.

The UAE is set to be one of the “probable winners of the shrinking of globalisation,” he said.

“When we talk about the shrinking, it’s the fact that we see more and more trade restrictions, especially between the US bloc and China bloc.

“The China bloc of course includes Russia, and in the recent escalation we see between the US and China a lot about trade. The [US government’s] chip axe is really tough. It’s an economic war.”

Last October, the Biden administration blocked the export of semiconductor chips and chip technology to China, in a bid to slow Beijing’s AI and military advances.

Gravier said the new raft of global trade restrictions “affect everyone”, but the UAE was in a good position. He pointed to the trilateral initiative between India, the UAE and France, unveiled last week, as the latest evidence of the Emirates’ rise as a diplomatic and economic force.

“For emerging regions it’s more difficult,” he said. “You have to choose your allies and you cannot market everything to everyone. In the middle, you don’t have many countries that have good relations with both. And frankly, for the Gulf – and for the UAE in particular – it looks like a winning situation because [they] speak to everyone.”

This neutral status would help the country attract more foreign investment, according to Gravier.

Over the past few years, the UAE has become a magnet for overseas hedge funds seeking a low-cost, investor-friendly base away from Brexit, the Ukraine crisis and the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE ranked first in the Gulf for foreign direct investment inflows in 2021, although the amount the Emirates invested overseas overtook this figure during the same period.

Gravier, who worked in the Swiss financial services sector for eight years, pointed to the trilateral initiative’s focus on energy.

“We all know India is buying crude oil from Russia … because they didn’t put sanctions on Russia. If they refine it and then sell refined products to Europe they can because there’s no problem between Europe and India,” he said. 

“The fact that the UAE is in this triple alliance shows that it is a diplomatic superpower, which is quite new.”

A sanction on oil products is expected to be the West’s next measure against Russia, which has historically been a major exporter of petroleum products. India is a net importer of crude oil but a net exporter of refined products.

The bank’s report said the battle between national and global agendas was not new, but was escalating.

“Globalisation is not over, but in a volatile transition, until some form of equilibrium is found again,” it said. “In the meantime, countries wise enough to maintain harmonious relations with the major blocs should get outsized benefits.”

Gravier added: “The UAE is one of the very rare countries in this situation.”

Latest articles

The UAE's minister of industry and advanced technology, Sultan Al Jaber, left, met Karl Nehammer, Chancellor of Austria, for talks on trade

Austrian finance unicorn to open in UAE

Austria’s first unicorn has announced plans to set up in Dubai, as officials from the UAE hold top-level talks in Vienna to build on a 22 percent increase in bilateral trade last year A unicorn is a startup company valued at more than $1 billion that is privately owned and not listed on a share […]

Mads Bo Larsen, vice-president of Novo Nordisk UAE, says a local plant 'will not solve anything' in the face of the country's Ozempic shortage Video length: 3:39

UAE diabetics face Ozempic shortage due to weight-loss users

The manufacturer of Ozempic is “troubled” by the fact the drug, which was designed to help people with diabetes, is in short supply in the UAE because of the high number of consumers using it for its weight loss side-effects. Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk introduced Wegovy, a drug meant to specifically tackle obesity, to […]

A market in Cairo. The meeting of the central bank’s MPC was its first since Egypt secured $8 billion in financial support from the IMF in March

Egypt holds interest rate hike despite slowdown

The Central Bank of Egypt has kept its key interest rates unchanged despite a slowdown in economic growth. The monetary policy committee (MPC) left the lending rate unchanged at 28.25 percent and the deposit rate at 27.25 percent. Inflation has eased since the annual headline and core inflation peaked at 38 percent in September 2023 […]

The number of electric vehicles in Dubai passed 30,000 by the end of April 2024

Parkin to roll out more green EV chargers across Dubai

Dubai is expanding its network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers as part of the emirate’s push to accelerate smart and green mobility. Parkin, the state-backed parking management company, has signed an agreement with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) to increase the number of EV green charger stations at prime locations across the emirate. Parkin […]