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Official Name: United Arab Emirates

National Symbol: golden falcon with a disc displaying the UAE flag and seven stars representing the seven Emirates of the federation

Internet Domain: .ae

International Dialing Code: +971

Table of Contents

Location and Size Economy Business Climate
Government Comparative Indicators Business Protocol
Legal System Credit and Collections Other Sources of Info
Interesting Facts Risk Assessment

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Location and Size

The United Arab Emirates is located in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is bordered on the north by the Persian Gulf and on the east by the Gulf of Oman. It has a land area of 83,600 sq km, making it slightly smaller than the US state of Maine.

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Government

In 1971-72, seven Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast – Abu Zaby, Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubai, Umm al Qaywayn and Ra's al Khaymah – merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They are a federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates. The federation capital is Abu Dhabi, located in Abu Zaby.

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Legal System

The UAE has a mixed legal system of Islamic and civil law.

There is no independent judiciary in the UAE. The Ministry of Justice appoints judges to the federal courts, while judges in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are appointed by the respective rulers of those emirates. The majority of judges are non-Emirati.

Each emirate applies federal law in its own court system that consists of courts of first instance, courts of appeal and a Supreme Court. The court of first instance consists of civil, criminal, and Sharia (Islamic law) courts. Sharia law is applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslims, but is focused primarily on family, inheritance and personal status matters. Courts will interpret statutory law and Sharia law in deciding cases.

United Arab Emirates has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction. (What does this mean?) It does not accept International Criminal Court jurisdiction.

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Ten Interesting Facts About U.A.E.

  1. The UAE is the only country where no taxation is applicable with the exception of branches of international banks, hotels and major oil and gas companies. There is no federal tax legislation, instead each Emirate has its own tax law.
  2. The indigenous population of UAE, Sunni Muslim Arabs, is outnumbered by foreign-born workers, mostly from Asia, originally attracted by the petroleum boom.
  3. The UAE does not allow non-emirati individuals past retirement age to stay within the country without a job. Upon retirement, residents must return to their country of origin.
  4. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the UAE is home to the most date palm trees anywhere on the planet -- 42 million date palm trees in 2009.
  5. Dubai, the capital of the Emirate of Dubai and the fastest growing city in the world, is renowned the world over for its shopping malls, restaurants and hotels. In Dubai Emirates Mall, you can ski indoors on a ski run measuring 400 meters and using 6,000 tons of snow.
  6. Dubai boasts some of the tallest buildings in the world (the Buri Khalifa is the tallest man-made structure on the earth at a height of 2,717 feet). Dubai also features the first man made islands, the Palm Islands.
  7. In many Dubai stores the lunch break is from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m.
  8. Abu Dhabi is one of the wealthiest states in the world.
  9. Abu Dhabi's Sir Bani Yas Island has cheetahs, hyenas, Arabian oryx, and thousands of other animals running wild. The island was once a royal hunting preserve.
  10. Ajman is the smallest state of United Arab Emirates. The state stretches up to an area of 260 square kilometers and has a population of 235,000.

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Economy

Oil and global finance have been the main drivers of the UAE's economy. As a result, falling oil prices, collapsing real estate prices, and the international banking crisis of 2008-09 hit the UAE especially hard.

The economy continues a slow rebound, with dependence on oil, a large expatriate workforce, and growing inflation pressures presenting significant long-term challenges. The federation’s strategic plan for the next few years focuses on diversification and creating more opportunities for nationals through improved education and increased private sector employment.

Leading Markets (2011): Japan 16.2%, India 13.5%, Iran 10.9%, South Korea 5.6%, Thailand 5.5%, Singapore 4.4%

Leading Exports-commodities: crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates

Leading Suppliers (2011): India 19.8%, China 13.7%, US 8.1%, Germany 4.6

Leading Imports-commodities: machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food

Top Industries: petroleum and petrochemicals; fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizers, commercial ship repair, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, textiles

Top Agricultural Products: dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish

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Comparative Economic Indicators – 2011

UAE Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi
Arabia
Yemen
Population (millions)* 5.3 2.6 3.1 2.0 26.5 24.8
Population growth rate (%)* 3.1 1.9 2.0 4.9 1.5 2.6
Age Structure (%)
(15 to 64 years old)
78.5 72.3 66.0 86.7 68.2 54.9
Age Structure (%)
(65+ years old)
0.9 2.1 3.2 0.8 3.0 2.6
Literacy (%) 77.9 93.3 81.4 96.3 86.6 63.9
Unemployment rate (%) 2.4
2001
2.2
2004
15.0
2004
0.4 10.9 35.0
2003
Inflation (%) 0.9 4.7 4.1 1.9 5.0 19.5
Population below poverty line (%)

19.5
2003

na na na na 45.2
2003
GDP** (USD billions) 256.5 153.5 85.0 174.9 687.7 58.0
GDP real growth rate (%) 5.2 8.2 5.4 14.1 7.1 010.5
GDP per capita** (USD) 47,700.0 41,700.0 27,600.0 98,900.0 24,400.0 2,300.0
Public debt (% of GDP) 45.9 7.5 3.8 34.0 12.6 36.9
Industrial production growth rate (%) 3.2
2010
8.7 3.5 27.1
2010
8.4 9.0
2010
Exports (USD billions) 281.6 104.3 47.1 114.3 364.7 8.7
Imports (USD billions) 202.1 21.96 21.4 26.9 120.0 8.2
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold (USD billions) 37.27 25.9 14.4 16.8 541.1 4.5
Currency Dirham
AED
Dinar
KWD
Rial
OMR
Rial
QAR
Riyal
SAR
Rial
YER
 01/11/2013 3.7 0.3 0.4 3.6 3.7 214.0
Exchange rates (per EUR) 01/11/2012 4.8 0.4 0.5 4.8 4.9 280.7
Rating in 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index*** 68 44 47 68 44 23
Rating in 2013 Index of Economic Freedom*** 71.1 63.1 68.1 71.3 60.6 55.9

* July 2012 estimate
** PPP – Purchasing Power Parity
*** 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index: 80-100=Very Clean; 40-79=Moderately Corrupt; 0-39=Highly Corrupt
**** 2013 Index of Economic Freedom: 100-80 = Free; 49.9-0 = Repressed

Economic Data from CIA World Factbook
2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International
2013 Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

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Credit and Collections

UAE Statutes of Limitation:

  • Open Account: 3 years
  • Promissory Notes: 3 years
  • Written Contracts: 15 years
  • Oral Agreements: n/a

Dispute Resolution

Commercial disputes involving foreign parties tend to come before the civil courts in the federal system; a panel of three judges ordinarily hears commercial disputes. In 1993 the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry formed the Abu Dhabi Commercial Conciliation and Arbitration Center in an effort to accelerate commercial dispute resolution. The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has promulgated similar commercial conciliation and arbitration rules that permit parties to have conciliation or arbitration proceedings under the auspices of the Chamber.

Arbitration may commence by petition to the UAE federal courts on the basis of mutual consent (a written arbitration agreement), independently (by nomination of arbitrators), or through a referral to an appointing authority without recourse to judicial proceedings. Enforcing arbitration judgments rendered in the UAE can be difficult as they require court certification and judicial proceedings may continue for several years.

The UAE's accession to the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards became effective in November 2006. An arbitration award issued in the UAE is now enforceable in all 138 states that have acceded to the Convention and any award issued in another member state is directly enforceable in the UAE. 

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Risk Assessment

Coface Country Rating: A3 -- Changes in generally good but somewhat volatile political and economic environment can affect corporate payment behavior. A basically secure business environment can nonetheless give rise to occasional difficulties for companies. Corporate default probability is quite acceptable on average.

Coface Business Climate Rating: A3 -- (see above)

Ducroire Delcredere Political Risk Rating: 2 -- moderate risk
Ducroire Delcredere Commercial Risk Rating: B -- moderate risk

The Belgian Export Credit Agency (ONDD): Risks on Export Transactions

  • Political Risk - Short Term >2 years: 2 -- low risk
  • Political Risk - Medium-Long Term >2 years: 3 -- moderate risk
  • Commercial Risk: B -- moderate risk

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Business Climate

The business environment in the UAE is considered to be among the most hospitable in the region. The financial crisis, however, revealed a general lack of transparency affecting public, banking, and corporate finances.

The push to “emiratize” jobs in the Federation is seen as having the potential to undermine efforts to improve the business environment with recruitment based more on nationality than skills.

The strength of the general business climate in the UAE rests on two factors: Dubai’s importance in the services sector and its position as a regional business hub; and, a solid financial base provided by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund (ADIA), holding the world’s largest portfolio of assets.

Economic Freedom:  In the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, the UAE achieved a score of 7.1 (mostly free) and a rank of 28th out of 177 countries. It ranked 3rd out of 15 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is higher than the world and regional averages. Economic freedom has increased for the fifth consecutive year

Market Access: Barriers to trade are quite low and commercial operations are aided by regulations that support open-market policies. With a transparent and favorable business climate and a high degree of political stability, the UAE has created a dynamic environment for entrepreneurs.

Regulatory System: Licensing is the fundamental instrument by which all of the emirates regulate business activity.  Any place of business is required to obtain and maintain a proper license. The procedures for obtaining a license vary from emirate to emirate. However, foreign businesses exporting to the UAE, but without a regular or continuing business presence in the UAE, do not need a license.

Intellectual Property Rights: The UAE leads the region in protecting intellectual property rights (IPR). Anecdotal and statistical evidence confirms that the UAE is enforcing copyright, trademark, and patent laws passed in 2002 to protect U.S. intellectual property, and continues to demonstrate its commitment to the 2002 agreement providing TRIPS-plus levels of protection to U.S. pharmaceuticals. Although the UAE is the leader in the region at enforcing intellectual property rights and the Emirate of Dubai is very pro-active in enforcement, many stakeholders believe that they could do more to fight piracy in the other emirates and to deal with the problems of transshipping of counterfeit goods.

Exchange Control: The currency for the UAE is the Dirham (AED). The exchange rate has remained relatively constant since 1980 and is, essentially, pegged to the dollar at approx USD1:00 : AED3.65. There are no exchange controls in the UAE and the Dirham is unreservedly exchangeable.

Corruption: The perceived level of corruption has declined, but respect for the rule of law is undermined by a relatively inefficient judicial system that is vulnerable to political influence. 

Political Violence: Although regional geopolitical uncertainties exist, the Federation has maintained political stability under the leadership of Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Khalifa ben Zayed. There have been no instances in recent memory involving politically motivated damage to projects or insurgencies that have impacted the investment environment.

For more detailed information on these topics, visit the 2012 Investment Climate Statement - United Arab Emirates, U.S. Department of State

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Business Protocol in UAE

  • Dress in clothes that cover the body. Men should wear a long-sleeved shirt, jacket and tie. Women should wear a skirt suit or dress, with hems below the knee. Absolutely do not dress in native clothing if you are a foreigner.
  • Greet with a handshake for men, beginning with the most senior executive in the room. A man, however, should not extend his hand to a woman. Wait for her cue. If she extends her hand, a handshake is appropriate. This works in reverse for visiting women. Do not extend your hand to a man, but shake it if a hand is offered.
  • Brochures and other promotional literature should always be printed in Arabic, either with or without an English translation.
  • Be patient with interruptions while meeting. It is very common for appointments to be interrupted by phone calls or visitors, even of a personal nature, and it should not be considered a slight.
  • Be prepared to bargain. This is part of the culture-virtually everything is bargained for.

More information on Business Protocol: Executive Planet

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Sources for further information on doing business in Country

American Chamber of Commerce, Abu Dhabi

Doing Business in the United Arab Emirates, 2012 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies, U.S. Commercial Service

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, DCE

Embassy of the United States, Abu Dhabi, UAE

US Arab Chamber of Commerce

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This information is provided by ABC-Amega Inc. Providing international receivable management and debt collection services for exporters to more than 200 countries including United Arab Emirates. For further information, contact info@abc-amega.com.

This report represents a compilation of information from a variety of reputable sources.

Comparative Economic Indicators: CIA World Factbook

Risk Assessment information: Coface Country Rating, Ducroire/Delcredere, Political Risk Insurance Center and The Belgian Export Credit Agency (ONDD)

Exchange Rates: OANDA.com The Currency Site.