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Iran-UAE trade talks another sign of Gulf thaw

The United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, is considering potential costs and benefits if Iran opens up to the global economy.
An aerial view of Khalifa Port is seen in Abu Dhabi April 10, 2014. State-owned Abu Dhabi Ports Co (ADPC) expects a surge in shipping traffic towards the end of this year as work on major infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates capital gathers pace, the company's chief executive said. Khalifa Port, built on a man-made island roughly half-way between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, came on stream in 2012 after Zayed Port, which had been serving Abu Dhabi for over 40 years, reached full capacity. Picture tak

On June 1, a trade delegation consisting of the ministers of agriculture and infrastructure, the heads of the chambers of commerce of the seven Emirates in the UAE and their accompanying business representatives visited Iran. This was the first high-level UAE trade delegation to Tehran after an eight-year absence. The UAE business delegates represent five sectors: oil and gas, banking, food industry, automotive traders and investment companies. The trip coincided with the official visit to Iran by the emir of Kuwait as well as the presence of a Qatari delegation in the southern port of Bushehr, all signs of improvement in the relations between Tehran and Iran’s southern neighbors.

For the better part of the past two decades, the United Arab Emirates — more specifically, Dubai — has been among Iran’s top trading partners. In fact, Dubai became the natural trading platform for international exports to Iran that would be re-exported through the emirate. The partnership was not just based on geographical vicinity, but also on common historical roots (many migrant families who founded Dubai originated in Iran’s southern provinces) and also on a growing presence of an Iranian trading community in the UAE. Thousands of Iranian businesses are represented in the UAE, which points to the breadth of the trade relations. In the early 2000s, Dubai also benefited enormously from Iranian investments in the local real estate market. In 2010, the trade volume between the two stood at $20 billion, rising to $23 billion in 2011 and then dropping to $17 billion in 2012 and $15 billion in 2013.

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