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Last year, the UAE accounted for more than $6 billion of the $146 billion global jewellery market, almost a third of the regional total. And the gemstones sector is playing an increasingly larger role in this trade. In the first six months of 2006, Dubai exported $664 million worth of precious and semi-precious stones, which adds up to over 28 per cent of total exports. The import, export and re-export of precious commodities as a whole, meanwhile, amounted to over $6 billion.
Shaikha Lubna also said that Dubai was "uniquely placed to make inroads into India's soon-to-be trillion dollar economy-especially good news for those in the jewellery industry".
She added: "With our membership of the World Trade Organisation established, the UAE government is reviewing its laws governing trade, export and re-export to further ease the movement of commodities to and through the UAE."
The minister emphasised the UAE's flair for marketing and branding — "the likes of which the world has never seen," she said. "Not only have we established our country as a centre of innovation, luxury and free trade — we have successfully communicated these qualities to the world. Many international businesses in Dubai, for instance, have been drawn here by the chance to become associated with the emirate's prestigious brand."
Continuing to stress Dubai's position as a world-class centre for the manufacture and trading of jewellery, Tawfic Farah, executive director-diamonds and coloured stones at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), noted that the average tourist to Dubai spends between $250 and $300 on an item of jewellery. "We intend to grow this," he said but "we want to ensure that the DMCC adds value".
Currently, half of the jewellery bought in the gold market in Dubai is manufactured locally, he said "and we want to encourage more of this." The DMCC is also trying to change Dubai's model from being a trans-shipment centre to a value-added hub, he explained.
Not only is Dubai fostering stronger links with Asia, but Dubai also has "very vibrant trade relations with Africa and Russia and both are growing," Farah said. "We have a very good trading relationship with Russia especially with diamonds and coloured stones".
Supporting Dubai's commitment to free trade, he said the DMCC was working to remove the five per cent customs duty imposed on imported colour stones and pearls that go on the local market — even when these goods are imported into the free zone first. The issue is with the GCC Council, he said, and "there is every indication that it will be approved in 90 days," he confirmed. Diamonds are already exempt from the five per cent customs duty.
Chandu Siroya, vice-chairman of the Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group, the organisation representing local traders, said that in 2006 total jewellery turnover in the emirate amounted to $3 billion. Gold jewellery represented 106 tonnes and the turnover of diamond jewellery was valued at $800 million.
Peter Meeus, advisor-diamonds at the DMCC explained the significance of the newly launched International Diamonds Laboratories (IDL). A new global quality label for diamonds, it will have branches in Antwerp and Mumbai. The first certificate will be issued in September, said Meeus, who will be IDL's first chief executive.
He also said: "The grading systems today are vague and unpredictable and this has no place in diamond grading in the future." He added that it is important that grading is scientific, saying "diamond grading is to be brought from an art to a science".
Recent reports say that the IDL has received the permission of the Indian government to provide its services to the Indian diamond industry.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, incoming ICA president, Andrew Cody, said that it is "very clear that Dubai is a burgeoning market for gemstones" and that the environment is favourable for doing business. In particular, duty-free, tax-free trade in gemstones will be facilitated by Dubai becoming a signatory to the ATA Carnet, or merchandise passport, in a few months, he said. The ATA Carnet provides internationally recognised customs document for temporary duty-free export of commercial samples, professional equipment and goods displayed at trade shows.
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