Dubai Foreign Trade in Figures


Dubai’s foreign trade landscape in 2023 presents a picture of robust growth and ambitious future targets. In the first half of 2023, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of which Dubai is a prominent emirate, achieved an all-time high in non-oil foreign trade, reaching AED1.239 trillion. This milestone underlines the continued upward trajectory of the nation’s foreign trade, which has seen consistent quarter-on-quarter growth since 2020​​.

Looking ahead, Dubai’s D33 economic agenda is set to further transform its trade dynamics. The plan aims to double the size of Dubai’s economy, with a target of reaching Dh32 trillion by 2033. Correspondingly, there is an ambition to double the size of the emirate’s foreign trade and expand its foreign trade map by adding 400 cities over the next decade. This ambitious growth is supported by initiatives like the World Logistics Passport, an international freight loyalty program that connects local and global trade networks​​.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) plays a significant role in Dubai’s trade and economic strategy. In 2022, the UAE, buoyed by its open economic policies and strategic global partnerships, ranked 16th globally in FDI inflows, attracting USD 22.737 billion (AED 83.5 billion), which marked a 10% increase from the previous year. This influx of FDI underscores the attractiveness of Dubai and the broader UAE as a global business hub​​.

To bolster these efforts, Dubai Customs has implemented a series of new policies aimed at boosting the UAE’s foreign trade. These measures come in the wake of several comprehensive economic partnership agreements signed with global and regional partners. These policies are instrumental in realizing Dubai’s goal of doubling its foreign trade from Dh14.2 trillion to Dh25.6 trillion in the next decade, thereby enhancing its position as a key player in global trade​​.

Futuristic Dubai: Vision 2030 – Global Trade Hub and Economic Powerhouse

Here is an artistic representation of Dubai’s future trade and economic growth. This image captures the essence of Dubai’s aspirations for 2030 and beyond, illustrating the city’s dynamic growth, innovation, and global connectivity.

Overall, Dubai’s trade figures and policies reflect a clear strategy focused on diversification, global integration, and leveraging its strategic geographic location to become a pivotal trade hub between the East and West. The emirate’s ongoing efforts to foster a conducive business environment and its investment in infrastructure and policy reforms are key drivers in achieving these ambitious trade and economic goals.

A Historical Overview

  • 2023: In July 2023, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recorded total exports of 25.0 billion USD. However, this represented a 26.0% drop year-on-year (YoY). The total imports for September 2022 were 29.9 billion USD, showing an increase of 29.8% YoY. The UAE’s trade balance recorded a deficit of 21.2 billion USD in September 2022​​​​.
  • 2022: The UAE achieved an all-time high in total exports, reaching 33.9 billion USD in August 2022.
  • 2020 – 2023: Since 2020, UAE’s non-oil foreign trade has been on an upward trajectory, achieving quarter-on-quarter growth, culminating in an all-time high of AED1.239 trillion in H1 2023​​1986: The lowest recorded value of UAE’s total exports was 855.6 million USD in May 1986​​.
  • 1981 – 2023: The average value of UAE’s total exports from January 1981 to July 2023 was approximately 3.7 billion USD monthly​​.
YearTotal Exports (USD Billion)Total Imports (USD Billion)Trade Balance (USD Billion)
202325.0 (as of July)29.9 (as of Sep 2022)-21.2 (as of Sep 2022)
202233.9 (highest in Aug)
19860.8556 (lowest in May)
Avg. 1981-2023~3.7 (monthly average)
Historical Data Table

Dubai’s foreign trade history demonstrates a journey of substantial growth and resilience. The diversification of its economy, strategic global partnerships, and investment in infrastructure and policy reforms have been central to this success. With initiatives like the D33 economic agenda and new policies by Dubai Customs, the emirate is poised to continue its ascent as a global trade hub​

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) showcased its trading prowess on the global stage. The country achieved exports amounting to $380.4 billion, a testament to its robust economic landscape. This remarkable export figure was predominantly dominated by four key products:

  1. Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals: This category was the top export, contributing significantly to the UAE’s economy.
  2. Petroleum Oils (Excluding Crude) and Preparations: This category includes refined petroleum products, which are significant in the UAE’s export portfolio.
  3. Natural Gas, Liquefied: Liquefied natural gas (LNG) represents another critical component of the UAE’s energy exports.
  4. Gold in Unwrought Forms Non-monetary: This indicates the UAE’s significant role in the global gold market, both in terms of production and trade.

This period marked a significant phase in the UAE’s economic history, underlining its capacity to not only extract and produce vital resources but also to effectively penetrate global markets with its diverse range of exports.

The success of 2014 also laid the groundwork for the future direction of the UAE’s, and by extension Dubai’s, economic and trade strategies. The focus on diversifying exports beyond oil, as seen in the subsequent years and projected into the future, stems from the insights and experiences gained during this period. This diversification strategy is evident in the ambitious targets set by the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 and other initiatives aimed at broadening the emirate’s global trade relations and economic footprint.

The Future

The future forecast for Dubai’s foreign trade is ambitious and optimistic, with several key targets and initiatives outlined for the next decade:

  1. Projected Export Growth: By 2030, the UAE’s exports are projected to reach approximately Dh2 trillion ($545 billion). This growth is expected to surpass the global average, as the Emirates focus on developing new trade corridors and diversifying exports. Such a significant increase in export value highlights the Emirates’ emphasis on expanding its trade network and diversifying the economy beyond oil​​.
  2. Dubai Economic Agenda D33: This agenda is a comprehensive plan, including 100 transformative projects aimed at increasing Dubai’s foreign trade. The D33 aims to elevate foreign trade from AED14.2 trillion over the past 10 years to AED25.6 trillion by 2033. This massive increase is part of a broader strategy to position Dubai among the top three global cities for trade and economic activity​​​​.
  3. Doubling the Size of Dubai’s Economy: A central goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 is to double the size of Dubai’s economy over the next decade. This ambitious target is set to consolidate Dubai’s position as a global economic hub, showcasing its commitment to continued growth and development in various sectors​​.
  4. Expansion of Trade Networks: The D33 plan also includes adding 400 cities as key trading partners over the next decade. This expansion is indicative of Dubai’s strategy to enhance its global connectivity and trade relations, tapping into new markets and strengthening existing ties​​.

In conclusion, Dubai’s foreign trade outlook for the future is shaped by a combination of ambitious growth targets, strategic economic plans, and efforts to diversify its trade portfolio. These initiatives, under the D33 agenda and broader UAE economic strategies, are set to significantly elevate Dubai’s status in the global trade arena, making it a central hub for international commerce.

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