Food security, energy drive UAE's ties with the Netherlands
The Netherlands pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to focus on various sustainable solutions, UAE Ambassador to the Netherlands says
Bilateral relations between the UAE and the Netherlands go back to 1972, one year after the unification of the Emirates. Khaleej Times sat down with Dr. Hissa Abdullah Ahmed Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the Netherlands, to discuss 49 years of friendly diplomatic relations between the two countries.
As both countries prepare for the post-pandemic recovery period, Trade Ministers from the UAE and the Netherlands held a virtual meeting in April, discussing ways to further boost bilateral trade.
Dr. Hissa says relations currently focus on food security, sustainable energy, and water scarcity, all of which will be reflected at the Netherlands pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“The biggest challenge in the world is with water, energy and food, and getting the vast experience that the Dutch possess in these specific fields and also given the nature of the Emirati economy, which is open and diversified, this should be very welcoming for the Dutch to come and practice their expertise in the UAE,” says Dr. Hissa.
The Netherlands pavilion located at the Sustainability District of Expo 2020 Dubai will feature cone-shaped vertical farms with edible plants, irrigated water harvested from the air, and various sustainable solutions. It will be open to visitors starting from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.
Even during Covid-19, the UAE and the Netherlands have managed to still cooperate on strategic matters.
Major UAE players investing in the Netherlands include DP World, which has a 30 per cent stake in the Rotterdam world gateway terminal, and Abu Dhabi state investor Mubadala, which is taking a significant stake in investment management company Asper, that plans to build a network of district heating services across the Netherlands. Furthermore, the Netherlands is one of the most important sources of the UAE's imports of food commodities.
On the flip side, diversification and economic openness are the foundation of the UAE’s sustainable development strategy, says Dr. Hissa. It continues to expand to non-oil sectors to ensure economic stability.
The total non-oil foreign trade between the two countries in 2020 amounted to more than $3 billion (Dh11 billion), while the value of direct Dutch investments in the UAE by the end of 2018 amounted to more than $3.6 billion, according to Emirates News Agency WAM.
The UAE is the second-largest trading partner of the Netherlands in the Arab world as it represents 16 per cent of the total trade of the Netherlands with Arab countries.
“The UAE has been aware of the importance of economic openness to the outside world; and established a wide network of foreign relations with various major emerging powers. It maintains its regional position and global importance in terms of foreign trade. It’s also the first trade gateway for the countries in the region. These factors attract other people to come and do business here,” says Dr. Hissa.
The UAE and the Netherlands are natural partners in this regard as both countries position tolerance and multiculturalism as core foundations of society.
“Being an example of tolerance, the UAE has more than 200 different nationalities, living side-by-side in peace while successfully engaging in a variety of businesses. Here in the Emirates, we have laws that protect individuals from discrimination based on religion or race. This legislative ground protects and nurtures the environment of tolerance, coexistence, and acceptance that we enjoy. These factors attract people from countries all over the world to come to the UAE to live and work in harmony with others from elsewhere,” she says.
In pre-pandemic times, Etihad Airways was running one daily flight between Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, while Emirates was running 3 to 4 daily flights between Dubai and Amsterdam. Dr. Hissa expects multiple daily flights to resume in the near future.
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