Strengthening relations

Major General (Retd) Orna Barbivay Minister of Economy and Industry of Israel on expanding UAE-Israel tech and private sector relations

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Published: Thu 18 Nov 2021, 9:44 AM

Last updated: Thu 18 Nov 2021, 9:45 AM

The historic signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020 created a geopolitical ‘big bang’ with Israel’s relations with the GCC countries and specifically with the UAE and Bahrain. Glasses were raised, flags were waived and thousands of historic photos were taken, leaving us all with a sense of hope and best wishes for peace in the Middle East and a better future for us all.

However, as time passed by, we’ve all come to realise that it was the economy, not the politics that moved to the forefront with a mutual understanding that this is the key for stability and advancement in the region. The developing economic relations between Israel and the UAE, and between Israel and Bahrain, can serve as a model of peacemaking out of mutual respect, respectful discourse, tolerance, and groundbreaking progress in thought and action.

My administration at the Ministry of Economy and Industry and I are fully committed to fostering growth and deepening the cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders of the industry. We look forward to achieving this by working closely with our Emirati counterparts, within the government and the private sector.

Over the past year, together, we have taken enormous strides forward, as reflected in the bilateral trade, which has leaped close to $700 million. But yet, there is still great potential for us to go beyond that figure, to achieve more, and to continue to reach new heights together. On the government level, we saw a lot of collaboration and discussion on various subjects. A flow of communication between investors and companies from both sides. Under my guidance, the Ministry of Economy and Industry worked to set the platform for business and economic dialogue with the decision to establish an economic and trade mission in Abu Dhabi, with the purpose to assist Israeli companies to expand in the region and to attract foreign investments to boost economic relations with Gulf states and the broader Arab world.

The last two years of the never-ending pandemic in a constant fluctuating pattern only further emphasised the necessity of regional collaboration in order to cope with social, economic and health challenges. With a fulfilment of the Abraham Accord vision, we saw Emirati and Israeli players joining forces to create R&D programmes to develop new frontline healthcare solutions. We understand that the ripple effects of Covid-19 would create an impact across the global economies, trades and investments and that this would remain with us in the upcoming years, therefore, emphasising the need for leaders across countries to join together with their knowledge and experience to collectively produce creative solutions that will enable continued growth and enable people to sustain a full and healthy life, to include work, culture and leisure.

The Ministry of Economy and Industry is committed to helping companies and investors from the UAE to establish and grow in Israel. We want to provide firms and investors from the UAE with open access to all that Israel has to offer, as a vibrant global hub of innovation. I can assure you that my Ministry, and indeed Israel’s government as a whole, is fully committed to opening the door to the people of the UAE.

The next stepping stone will be the much-expected signing of a Free Trade Agreement, which will boost the bilateral relations between Israel and the UAE. During my tenure, the Ministry of Economy and Industry will work with our Emirati partners to promote the establishment of the Free Trade Agreement which will be a major advancement in the trade relations between our two countries.

Today, we share similar ambitions – to harness the talent and ingenuity of our business and technological ecosystem, in order to increasingly shape the future of both nations and of the Middle East. Our economies are both growing, fuelled by human intelligence and brainpower. We stand on the edge of endless opportunities for greater prosperity for both our countries.

Israel’s ecosystem has a lot to offer to the UAE’s economy in terms of technological innovation. Israel, a world leader in technology and innovation, ranking first in unicorns per capita, sees a lot of potential in a mutual collaboration that focuses on innovation. The healthcare sector, especially in digital health, is one major example: With over 500 companies with various solutions and the telehealth field is being rapidly developed in the UAE, a collaboration between our countries is nothing but natural. Agritech is also a major sector that will enjoy mutual investment and collaboration with all regarding food security is at the core of the UAE strategy. We see also a lot of potential in cyber, fintech, water, and cleantech, specifically in alternative energies.

In the past 25 years, we have turned the Israeli industry into one of the most professional and advanced ecosystem in the world. We have invested heavily in R&D, in the academy, in an open and rather liberal economy, and in building bridges of trade, collaboration, and innovation. Our primary plan is to share this model with the UAE, which will only benefit both nations, with the hope to establish a gateway for Israeli companies to GCC countries, the Middle East, Africa, and even South Asia.

In turn, Israel sees the potential to gain the know-how from UAE’s advanced services industry, within logistics, supply chain, as well as the financial services. We are all looking forward to a bright and prosperous future for the tech industry and the private sectors in both UAE and Israel. I’m confident that together we can create it and that we shell to make it.

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