The UAE is Australia’s largest Middle Eastern trading partner and 18th largest overall, accounting for 1.2% of Australia’s total goods and services trade. Australia’s total merchandise trade (exports + imports) with the UAE was A$2.9b in 2016. Australia’s main exports to the UAE included beef, vegetables and vehicle parts/accessories. UAE’s main exports to Australia are oil. An estimated 23,000 Australians live and work in the UAE.
Service exports to the UAE were worth A$622m in 2016. Some 360 Australian companies are based in the UAE, most in the service sector. Many use Dubai as a regional base, taking advantage of its transport, financial and communications infrastructure.
The oil and gas industry also presents opportunities for Australian firms. Gasco was awarded a contract to supply equipment to the Taweelah–Fujairah Gas Pipeline Project. Australian firms have also been involved with the construction of railway networks, the likes of Track IQ, International Transport Training & Development and Rail Skills Australasia providing a range of services.
Education is an area of potential growth as Australian institutions have been active in the UAE market for over 20 years. The University of Wollongong and Murdoch University both have campuses in the UAE. But the number of UAE students studying in Australia remains relatively small at 680, having fallen significantly since 2009.
The UAE accounts for 0.6% of total tourist arrivals in 2016. However, the relatively well-off population and partnership between Qantas and Emirates poses upside to the tourism outlook.
Bilateral investment between Australia and the UAE has fluctuated over the last decade. UAE investment in Australia reached A$11b in 2016, and Australian investment into the UAE was worth A$2.6b the same year. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund, has invested heavily in hotels and infrastructure projects.