On Tuesday, 31 October 2023, the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council hosted a private sector dinner on the eve of the 10th annual U.S.-U.A.E. Economic Policy Dialogue (EPD). The event brought together leaders from the U.S. and U.A.E. private sectors with the government delegations for a substantive discussion on key policy matters, challenges, and opportunities in the bilateral relationship. Following the working dinner on the 31st, senior U.S. and U.A.E. officials are meeting today, November 1st, for government-to-government meetings in Washington, D.C.

H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba, U.A.E. Ambassador to the U.S., welcomed guests who attended the dinner to underscore the importance of this dialogue to the overall bilateral relationship. Ambassador Al Otaiba said that “commercial and trade relations are the cornerstone of the U.S.-U.A.E. relationship.”

Jose W. Fernandez, U.S. Department of State Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment spoke of his role in creating the EPD ten years ago, and its aim to foster discussion on key policy issues in the U.S.-U.A.E. commercial and trade relationship. Noting the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s historic involvement in the EPD, he remarked that, from the outset, the EPD envisioned a strong role for the private sector. He commended the U.S.-UA.E. Business Council for helping “meet that challenge in spades.” U/S Fernandez noted that the decade since the creation of the EPD has seen a steady rise in the level of trade and commerce between the two countries and significant improvement in the investment climate. He underscored the critical role the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council played in this process.

Moreover, Under Secretary Fernandez outlined opportunities to expand the U.S.-U.A.E. trade and commercial relationship in new areas, including by leveraging multilateral mechanisms such as the I2U2 Initiative, an economic partnership between India, Israel, U.A.E., and the United States. He called on the private sectors within the I2U2 countries to mobilize resources to identify, explore, and participate in “bankable” projects that tackle global challenges and unlock new economic opportunities in key sectors. He also encouraged private industry to get involved in the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), a collaboration of 13 countries and the EU to catalyze public and private investment in responsible critical mineral supply chains globally. Under Secretary Fernandez spoke of an economic agenda focused on building a greener future and leveraging new technologies, and concluded by emphasizing the need for projects in I2U2 and MSP.”

U.A.E. Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs, H.E. Saeed Al Hajeri recalled his experience as a student in the United States, for which he credited with “shaping” who he is today.” He echoed Under Secretary Fernandez’s comments on the importance of bilateral dialogues such as the EPD for providing opportunities for the private sector to discuss key policy issues with government leaders. Like Under Secretary Fernandez, H.E. Al Hajeri highlighted steady growth in trade volume and investment flows between the two countries. He cited “people to people ties” as central to the business relationship and predicted more achievements to come in this regard. He described the relationship with the United States as a “model,” and lauded the close intergovernmental working relationship between the U.S. and the U.A.E. He added that the U.A.E. will spare no effort in trying to find consensus and deliver a meaningful outcome at COP28.

U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt reinforced the importance of industry participation at COP28. He highlighted the U.S.-U.A.E. PACE agreement as a cornerstone of bilateral cooperation on clean energy. He referenced the strides the U.A.E. has made in the clean energy sector and mentioned the roles of ENEC, Masdar, and ADNOC in leading the effort. At COP28, he hopes that stakeholders will highlight progress in the energy transition, pointing to innovative new SMR technology from U.S. companies such as Westinghouse and GE. He emphasized the importance of “raising the business footprint” at COP28 and in meeting energy transition benchmarks. He noted that the U.S. government delegation to COP28 will be robust, with no less than 50 agencies and bureaus represented.

Conversation with member companies of the private sector centered on opportunities for greater collaboration and policy concerns in areas such as healthcare, energy, sustainable finance, and digital technology. Participants discussed the need to “develop new ideas” to overcome the challenges of sustainable finance. Assistant Minister for Medical Affairs and Life Sciences H.E. Maha Barakat highlighted that health care will be a focus area at COP 28 for the first time and linked climate change to global public health challenges. Industry representatives also discussed digital policy matters and sought clarification on U.A.E. developments, including the creation of the U.A.E. Data Office, policies regarding 6G rollout, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Requirements of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) surfaced in the context of the U.A.E.’s strong desire to increase its investments in the United States. Participants also discussed steel and aluminum tariffs, bilateral cooperation in food security, and opportunities for U.S. business in the context of the U.A.E.’s recent spate of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPAs).

Inaugurated in 2012, the EPD serves as an annual forum for the two governments to discuss bilateral trade and investment opportunities, and to facilitate a regulatory and policy environment that fosters greater opportunities for private sector engagement and collaboration. U.A.E. and U.S. officials lauded the work of the EPD over the years in helping to resolve outstanding policy questions in several areas and in advancing the overall investment, trade, and business relationship.

The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council has, from the first meeting of the EPD, worked closely with both governments to provide industry perspectives on challenges and opportunities in the bilateral relationship that, in turn, inform and shape the discussions of the joint government dialogue. This support has taken the form of an industry feedback letter about policy matters and the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s annual EPD private sector dinner.

For more information about this event, please contact Matthew Gardell at mgardell@usuaebusiness.org.