“Why We Didn’t Do This Earlier Is The Only Question”

Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE Minister of Economy (Photo: WAM)

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The United Arab Emirates’ Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri spoke with Globes recently about the peace agreement and the resulting trade cooperation between Israel and the UAE.

“The feeling in the government and among the people is wonderful,” he says. “This is a genuinely historic moment and it’s uplifting. It’s a very important agreement for the two countries, Israel and the Emirates, for the region, and for the whole world, in what it represents, bringing to the top of the order of priorities a common human goal – the welfare of people, and giving hope for their future and for the coming generations.”

“There are so many common and complementary areas that the question that arises is, why did this not happen earlier? The search for technological innovation that will improve human life, entrepreneurship, encouragement of progress, the race to find better solutions to problems which in many cases are similar, such as water, energy, and so on. The convergence of interests and goals and the international atmosphere have now matured, and thank G-d for that and for the leaders who were able to move this positive peace forward.”

“I myself have met Israeli businesspeople in the past few weeks, and the rapport was immediate. They were among those who did business with us even before the announcement of the agreement, but afterward, the sense of closeness is greater. They showed me pictures of Tel Aviv and invited me to visit. And on our side, you can see a flood of positive comments on social networks, and connections being formed between Emiratis and Israelis in a completely natural way. This lends an excellent atmosphere for the development of commercial and economic ties. The UAE is by nature a hospitable country, welcoming people from all over the world, and the reception we give Israelis is part of that. Government policy is also one of openness, on both the international human level and on the trade and economic level. We host international conferences and sports events. We are open to the world, and now we are open to Israel and Israelis as well.”

“We are from similar cultures, people of the same region, and share characteristics such as curiosity about the world around us, a love of travel and seeing the world. We expect a wave of Israeli tourists, and you can expect many visitors from the Emirates. We are two peoples with a desire to learn, to invent, and to develop individual and public initiatives, and joining together is therefore obvious.”

Bin Touq hinted of the possibility that not only will Israel and the UAE form business ties but the two countries may cooperate in other regions in the world, especially north African Arab countries. “The triple cooperation goes beyond our region and could very substantially promote our projects in various places around the world. We are constructing considerable infrastructure and other projects together with the US in Africa, in several countries in the north and the center of the continent. We are open to Israeli companies joining these projects. Israeli technologies have much to offer in the areas we’re involved in. And this not only expands business but ties to strategic geopolitical matters as well.”

Globes aked Bin Touq what type of business can be conducted between Israel and the UAE and he responded: “The short answer is innovative technologies, for example, agri-tech. Israel is known as a global pioneer in this area, particularly in desert climate conditions such as we have. The whole world learns from Israeli technologies and they learn from the world, and now we can widen the circle to include us. The water industry is of course connected to that: irrigation, desalination, recycling, and the proper use of this precious natural resource.”

“Another important field is health, and it’s no coincidence that the first collaboration agreements were signed in this field, regarding the battle against the coronavirus, but not solely that. On our side, there is tremendous development on that front, in applied research. The coronavirus has presented a challenge to humanity that requires the joining of forces to fight it, as companies from our two countries are now doing. The same applies to solar energy, which is especially effective in our region. We believe that the agreement will lead to a very large number of trade agreements, sales and investments between the two countries, and between businesspeople and companies.”

“We are preparing an assessment of the degree of growth in trade and economic ties that this agreement will bring about. At first glance, it will lead to a substantial rise in growth and will generate thousands, if not tens of thousands, of jobs in the two countries.”

Bin Touq ended the interview, conducted right before Rosh Hashanah by saying: “I would like to end the interview with a greeting in Hebrew – ‘Shana Tova V’Chag Same’ach.'”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)