UAE, Singapore can play crucial role in driving GCC-ASEAN economic cooperation

First-ever Global Business Forum ASEAN examines the dynamics of the UAE-Singapore relationship and its role in building bridges between regional business communities

UAE, Singapore can play crucial role in driving GCC-ASEAN economic cooperation

Dubai, UAE – Close economic ties between the UAE and Singapore have enormous potential to develop into wider ASEAN-Gulf trade relations, according to industry experts speaking today at the Global Business Forum ASEAN in Dubai.

The forum, organised by Dubai Chamber in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai, featured a session titled Leveraging Hubs – The UAE-Singapore Dialogue, which was joined byHassan Al Hashemi, Vice President of International Relations at Dubai Chamber and Dr Brian Shegar, President of the UAE-Singapore Business Council.

“We need to utilise forums such as the Global Business Forum ASEAN to see where we can move forward from here,” asserted Al Hashemi. “One of the most notable things we did with the first-ever GBF ASEAN is publish a paper that gives an overview of our bilateral relationship and where we can come together – Dubai and Singapore – to take the relationship forward.”

“The paper specified four sectors where we can see an accelerated improvement,” Al Hashemi added. “First is transport and logistics, where we are can enhance the use of our knowledge and expertise to expand trade ties between our regions. Second, we can mention agribusiness and food: we know 90% of what we consume is imported, which is why agribusiness and food security are at the top of our government’s agenda. We need to see how we can build on this partnership to truly tackle this issue.”

“The third sector is retail and ecommerce, where the pandemic has really pushed companies to have an online presence,” he continued. “and finally, there are Financial services and fintech. This is just an example of what we can do collectively to look beyond the UAE and Singapore and connect as two prominent hubs to bring value in terms of trade.”

For his part, Dr Brian Shegar said: “Singapore and the UAE have shared an excellent relationship beginning in 1985, when diplomatic ties were first established between the two countries. This makes the UAE Singapore’s leading trade partner, and vice versa, Singapore is the UAE’s leading commercial partner in the ASEAN region.”

“In terms of investment, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw substantial investments made. This year, for example, GIC – which is Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund – invested USD 600 Million in the ADNOC crude pipeline project, which was an important milestone,” Dr Shegar explained, adding that the relationship between the two culminated in February 2019 with the official visit by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Singapore.

The agreement bringing the two countries together focuses on six areas, Shegar noted: “Defence and security, finance, sustainable development, health, education, and human resources development.”

In a separate session focusing on the Islamic economy and its power to shape the global economic recovery, Ayman Amin Sejiny, Chief Executive Officer, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, Saudi Arabia was joined by Dr Mohamed Damak, Senior Director and Global Head of Islamic Finance, S&P Global, UAE in a session titled Islamic Finance: Forging New Links. The conversations highlighted the latest state of the global Islamic economy report, which put the value of Islamic finance worldwide at almost USD 2.9 trillion in 2019, with some estimates putting the worldwide halal economy at more than USD 11 trillion by the end of this decade.

Sejini, stressed that the time is ideal to promote the spread of Islamic banking, especially after the world began to emerge from the recession last year due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. He explained that Islamic banking products and services are consistent with the standards of environment, society and governance, thus comply with the frameworks of sustainable development, and adopt the principles of ethical investment in doing business. He noted that financial technology is a major supporter of the Islamic banking sector, giving it the ability to provide effective solutions, facilitate access to its products and services, support the issuance of sukuk, and advance the sector’s growth and prosperity.

“Great trade businesses between Dubai, the GCC and the ASEAN, as well as the excitement to be able to access product and services throughout, will go greater and stronger than ever before will be the game changers in the industry. I feel fintech will be the future of Islamic financing,” he said.

Dr Damak, pointed to a number of challenges facing the Islamic banking sector, including the need to develop its standards, align its business with the requirements of society and governance, and introduce the latest financial technologies into the issuance of sukuk and takaful.

GBF ASEAN forms part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship Global Business Forum series, which was launched in 2013 to provide Dubai’s business community with new opportunities and strengthen the emirate’s position as a global business hub, a dynamic centre of commerce, and a gateway to lucrative new markets.