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UAE-Saudi non-oil trade surges 70% to $37bn in last decade

Wam/Handout via Reuters
Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan receives Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Top commodities imported from Saudi include mineral oils and raw gold
  • Kingdom’s imports from UAE include jewellery and copper wires
  • A strong Saudi complements UAE, said public affairs consultant

Non-oil trade between the UAE and Saudi Arabia reached AED 136.09 billion ($37.05 billion) in 2022, a year-on-year increase of 9 percent.

The two Gulf neighbours have seen their trade relationship grow by 70 percent over the past 10 years to AED 975.5 billion, according to data from the Federal Centre for Competitiveness Statistics.

Scott Livermore, chief economist at Oxford Economics, expects the amounts to keep rising.

“Although some of the increase in the trade value will have been driven by higher prices, the growth since last year and over the past decade show the positive spillover impacts of sustained growth in both countries,” he said. 

“Both countries will continue to target export growth further afield, in particular Asia, but the latest data shows opportunities exist regionally.”

Non-oil trade last year consisted of AED 34 billion worth of exports from Saudi Arabia to the UAE, while non-oil exports from the UAE to Saudi Arabia amounted to AED 35.6 billion, and re-exports, AED 66.4 billion.

Top 5 imports to UAE from Saudi Arabia in 2022

CommodityValue (AED)
Mineral oils 10.8 billion
Ethylene polymers3.6 billion
Raw gold1.7 billion
Insulated wires and cables for electricity1.1 billion
Laundry products811 million

Top 5 imports to Saudi Arabia from UAE in 2022

CommodityValue (AED)
Raw gold8.7 billion
Ornaments and jewellery2.5 billion
Copper wires2.4 billion
Flat products of iron or steel891 million
Mineral oils829 million

Top 5 re-exports from UAE to Saudi Arabia in 2022

CommodityValue (AED)
Communication devices and equipment9.1 billion
Data processing machines6.6 billion
Woven clothing2.3 billion
Parts and accessories for vehicles2.2 billion
Jewellery1.9 billion

Michael Bessey, GCC regional representative for global public affairs consulting firm ASG, said he would characterise the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UAE as close, but there is growing economic competition between the two Gulf states.

In 2021 Saudi Arabia announced it would stop working with foreign companies unless they established regional headquarters in the kingdom by 2024.

This was relaxed at the start of this year with companies with foreign operations not exceeding SAR 1 million ($266,000) exempt from the ruling.

The initial announcement spurred sweeping reforms in the UAE to boost the country’s economic competitiveness, relaxing rules around foreign labour and encouraging inward investment. Dubai has also introduced a range of visa initiatives aimed at attracting talent to the emirate.

Bessey said the extent of the competition has been “overstated” and believed a strong Saudi Arabia would complement the UAE.

“The UAE always tends to benefit from the growth of the region as a whole and Saudi Arabia specifically,” he said.

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