To paraphrase the famous dictum of Carl von Clausewitz, one of the fathers of modern military doctrine, it can certainly be said that, for the United Arab Emirates, "international business is a continuation of diplomacy by other means." The man whom every Israeli investor wants to meet, His Excellency Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, said something very similar in an exclusive interview with "Globes". The department runs the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), making Al Shorafa one of the most important people in the circle of decision makers on investments in the Emirates in general and in Abu Dhabi in particular.
If it were not already clear, the main economic benefit of the Abraham Accords is that they open up the way to new markets (the Gulf states, central Asia, and beyond), or shorten the way to existing markets (India, China, and Japan). "We set up a ramified business and economic network with the entire world, and, in joining it, Israel greatly expands its ties with all members of the network, acquires its advantages, and benefits from the many connections," Al Shorafa says.
Al Shorafa, an extremely genial person, explains that it's even more than the paraphrase of von Clausewitz: for the Emirates, international business has become a main policy tool, and that's how the Abraham Accords signed with Israel should be seen. "The Abraham Accords represent a tremendous historic turning point, and the creation of a huge platform for forming long-term business-economic relations." He stresses the long term, and subtly alludes to the behavior of some of the Israeli businesspeople who came to the Emirates last year, in a hurry to close deals even before the black coffee on the table had cooled down.
"The slow pace at which economic relations have been established with the Israelis stems from the need to study the material thoroughly, and particularly from the desire to establish them on a long-term basis, in accordance with our vision and our working strategy," says Al Shorafa, referring to the switch from an oil-dependent economy to opening up the Emirates to many other fields, and especially to the fact that it is a huge international trading and business center, one of the biggest in the world. He points out that if in the last decade revenue from oil accounted for close to 90% of state revenues, last year they amounted to 47%, with the rest mainly from international business. "Our perspective is international: not just Abu Dhabi and the Emirates, but international cooperation, utilizing the chief advantages of each partner."
He admits that both sides are still trying to find the right way for mutual investment, one of the areas that has not really taken off in the year that has gone by since the Abraham Accords were signed, even though in Israel it was thought that this would be one of the main consequences of normalization.
Nevertheless, Al Shorafa promises that, with patience, investment will also develop. "We were flooded with approaches from Israelis after the ADIO branch was opened in Tel Aviv. Note that Tel Aviv was one of our first destinations for an office outside of the Emirates - even in Dubai we don't have an office. That means that we certainly ascribe great importance to Israel. Just be patient, and think long term," he says.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 28, 2021.
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