Patrick T Wall is the US Commercial Attache for Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Previous placements have seen him in far flung places such as Sydney and Panama. City Times caught up with him to find out what his role involves, and how he and his family are finding life in Dubai.

By Peter Donnelly (Staff Reporter)

Published: Sat 27 Aug 2005, 11:53 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:07 PM

What is it you do?

We're the commercial arm of the US. I'm the Commercial Attache, and I head this section. Our primary role is to assist and work with American business that are seeking trade and investment opportunities in the UAE.

I also have responsibility, partially, for the Sultanate of Oman as well. So I handle from this office; Dubai, the Northern Emirates and - somewhat indirectly Oman — with another office in Muscat. We promote US industry, and try to get a fair piece of the market for US business.

How do you fulfill your task?

Our job is to make sure American companies are well informed about opportunities, and assisting businesses in identifying the decision makers to present their products and services to. We also advocate on behalf of American companies.

If there is a tender or a procurement we would highlight an American company which could offer a competitive product, good technology, price and service.

That kind of thing. We encourage local government authorities or private vendors to consider purchasing American goods and services. We also want to make sure that everything is transparent for American companies.

Can you give an example?

Well, we engage in supporting trade missions that come to the country. We had a mission from the state of Texas come out this year. In the past we've had other state missions, and industry specific missions.

We're looking at a mission in the future for district cooling. It's a new form of air conditioning where you set up a central air conditioning plant in a certain region and it then provides air conditioning to all the buildings in that area.

It means that individual buildings don't need to have their own independent A/C system.

What type of economic ties exist between the two countries?

The United States enjoys very strong economic ties with the UAE. This has been the case since the UAE was founded.

UAE imported $13.84 billion worth of commodities from the US during the first six months of this year. While the total trade between the two countries amounted to $16.1 billion.

In your opinion, is the local ownership requirement an inhibitor to inward investment?

To some extent it is, but it's hard to quantify. I have had companies come to me and say they are interested in the market, but they won't give up control.

It's a very difficult obstacle psychologically for an entrepreneur or business to come into a market and say: "we're giving absolute control to a local partner because we're required by law to do so." It can be a deal killer.

What percentage I don't know, but we are currently engaged in free trade negotiations with the UAE, and the ownership issue is one of the areas that we're discussing.

I believe that if the ownership requirements were reduced from local majority control you would see an increase in the number of businesses considering investing here.

What advice would you offer American businesses considering moving into the region?

For companies coming in I would say: find competent legal council; register with the proper authorities; check with the chambers, economic development organisations and things of that nature.

Use good due diligence. Also, make sure that you check out your partner. The reason why I say that is because the laws here are very strict, and once you appoint an exclusive distributor it's extremely difficult to terminate someone for performance.

Once you appoint someone, local law is very supportive of maintaining that relationship. So it's very important to consider your partner carefully, and we can help with this.

Does the trading blocks of GCC, Nafta and EC make your mission in Dubai more difficult?

Our view is that we think free trade is good and these kinds of organisations help to foster open markets.

It helps with access to their markets, and access to markets around the world. They can help reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers. Those are good things.

The US would look positively on further market integration in the wider Middle East and the world as a whole.

What about the security situation for Americans?

In many ways I feel very secure here. We haven't had any problems, and I'm obviously very pleased with that.

I think Dubai has a good reputation for the low level of crime, and the high level of security they provide. I think that's another positive element that the country offers the people who live and work here.

What do you think of the country overall?

There's a lot of wealth and growth. The GDP in the emirate of Dubai was over 10 per cent of the figure in 2004. That's very rapid growth. Tourism is obviously huge. This is an area of opportunity.

Where has been your favourite placement?

Oh, That's a tough one. Sydney was great. A really fantastic city, and the country is beautiful. Wonderful people as well. I also enjoyed Panama.

There, if you travelled East for a short distance you would find yourself on the Caribbean coast. Travel the same distance to the west, and you were on the Pacific coast. Both coasts are so different.

Argentina was also enjoyable; very like Europe. I also like places in the States. I'm now a resident of Florida, and I like it there. However, Dubai is fantastic too. Although I've only been here for a short time I'm enjoying it immensely. There's a great quality of life out here. My family love it as well. I originally come from New England where it can get very cold, so I love the sunshine.

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