Long recognized as the leading regional trading hub in the Middle East, Dubai has transformed itself in recent years into a truly international business centre of global significance.
Dubai has expanded its trading activity beyond its traditional base in the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council states (the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman) and Iran. Today, the city offers international companies an ideal gateway for developing their business throughout the Middle East, Asian subcontinent, East Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, CIS and Central Asia. For example, during the first six months of 1996, Dubai's top ten re-export markets were countries as diverse as Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Russia, Turkey, Oman and Pakistan.
Increasingly, international companies are recognising that Dubai's expanded business horizons cover many of the most interesting emerging markets for the future. The region has a combined population of 1.4 billion, and a large proportion of this total will enter the international consumer market for the first time in the 21st century.
While oil has been crucial to Dubai's development since the late 1960s, the non-oil sector currently contributes some 90% of total gross domestic product and is continuing to expand in importance. Manufacturing, tourism and services are all growing strongly, helping to create a well balanced and diversified economy. However, trade remains the lifeblood of Dubai's business life, as it has for generations.
This long trading tradition, which earned Dubai the reputation within the Middle East as the city of merchants, remains an important consideration for foreign companies looking at opportunities in the region today. It is reflected not just in a regulatory environment, which is open and liberal, but also in the local business community's thorough familiarity with international commercial practices and in the city's cosmopolitan lifestyle.
As a regional business base, Dubai is strategically located midway between the Far East and Europe on the east-west trading routes and between the former Soviet Union and Africa on the north-south axis. Its airport, which ranks as one of the world’s busiest in terms of transit passengers, is linked to more than 200 destinations via some 130 airlines and Dubai Ports Authority - the operator of Port Rashid and Jebel Ali Port - is unrivalled throughout the region in terms of both facilities and efficiency.
The second largest of the seven emirates which constitute the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is politically stable and is open to business with all countries of the world, excluding Israel.
Dubai has no taxes on profits or incomes; it offers complete freedom of capital movement; it boasts a sophisticated financial and services sector; its communications facilities are excellent; and the cost structure for doing business is highly competitive.
Apart from its attractions as a regional office location, Dubai also offers incoming companies excellent facilities for establishing manufacturing and distribution operations. In the Jebel Ali Free Zone and the new Airport Free Zone, overseas companies are permitted to set up wholly-owned ventures and can enjoy an array of incentives, including exemption from import duties, in addition to the favourable investment conditions which prevail elsewhere in Dubai.
With these advantages and incentives in place, Dubai has not surprisingly attracted a massive inflow of investment in recent years.
Aside from the economic advantages of using Dubai as a business base, international businessmen can be assured that the city offers a superb quality of life for themselves and their families. Dubai is tolerant, welcoming and virtually crime-free. The lifestyle is international, with luxury residential and office accommodation, good educational, health and shopping facilities. Sporting and leisure interests are well catered for and Dubai's top class international hotels offer a wide range of dining, entertainment and nightlife.
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