United Arab Emirates Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri said he hopes to see more partnerships forged between companies from the UAE and South Korea based on the solid ties built between the two governments.
"We need to see more work that happens and more announcements of agreements between companies," Al Marri said in an interview with The Korea Herald on Nov. 9.
“Now, the government-to-government relationship is at the highest," the minister said, underscoring the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and UAE’s announcement of a $30 billion investment in Korea.
He urged Korean companies to expand into the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe through the UAE's strategic infrastructure and established trading companies.
He was in Seoul last week for bilateral discussions with Minister of SMEs and Startups Lee Young, and to attend the Comeup Global Startup Festival in Seoul, organized by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups.
Al Marri and Lee assessed advancements made since the signing of cooperation memorandums of understanding between the two ministries in January this year. Additionally, they sought to pinpoint new collaboration initiatives within the SMEs and venture sectors.
Al Marri was leading a business delegation of 190 individuals from 40 companies on his visit to Seoul, included venture capital and other funds.
The UAE and South Korea established diplomatic relations in 1980 and elevated them to a special strategic partnership in 2018. The two countries signed a joint statement to conclude negotiations for the CEPA last month, according to which South Korea will eliminate tariffs on 92.8 percent of traded items, and the UAE will remove tariffs on 91.2 percent of products within 10 years.
The CEPA is expected to boost South Korea's exports of eco-friendly vehicles, weaponry, electronics and fresh food, while the UAE will gradually eliminate a 3 percent tariff on crude oil, ensuring stable supplies and enhancing South Korean refiners' competitiveness.
UAE investments in South Korea have primarily centered on real estate, telecommunications, energy and logistics, but hopes are high in business circles after the UAE declared to invest $30 billion in South Korea during a summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in January this year.
"We're beyond UAE and Korea as friends anymore; we are more like brothers and sisters," Al Marri said.
According to South Korea's Ministry of SMEs and Startups, Al Marri and Lee emphasized the importance of fostering exchanges between companies and investors, as well as promoting collaboration districts, or clusters, and companies to enhance interactions among small and medium-sized ventures and ecosystems.
The ministers discussed various new cooperative initiatives, the prospect of Korean companies entering local cooperation districts and domestic investment officials participating in the Investopia global investment disclosure forum in the UAE, the ministry said in a press release Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Al Marri also met with Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and discussed ways to boost economic cooperation that would open new pathways for startups, entrepreneurs and investors.
The primary agenda of visiting Seoul was to "meet, collaborate and open markets for businesses."
“I think on G2G (government-to-government) level, everything is done. We have now the opportunity for the B2B (business-to-business) level to start the activities and make things happen," said Al Marri.
Acknowledging enhanced UAE-Korea economic cooperation, the minister hinted at an upcoming agreement between the state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea and the Investment Corp. of Dubai to expand economic ties.
"UAE has always played a position where it connects the world. We have the highest export economy as well, globally," he added, hoping for increased trade, collaboration and new agreements between companies.
When asked about the UAE's recent initiatives on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, Al Marri highlighted the Ministry of Economy's engagement with the circular economy and focus on reducing waste and carbon-dioxide emissions by using cooking oil for biofuel and biodiesel.
UAE came up with its Circular Economy Policy for 2021-2031 to promote such practices and sustainable consumption production patterns to reduce environmental impact and achieve basic needs. The policy aims to adopt cleaner industrial production methods within the private sector and integrate artificial intelligence technologies into these processes.
According to Al Marri, many major projects for circular economy are in the pipeline, especially in the circularity of batteries and refrigerated gas to bring recycled materials back into products for widespread use.
The minister did not particularly cite any projects, but he encouraged Korean companies to take advantage of the UAE’s incentives and efforts to reduce red tape, bureaucracy and zero-tolerance policies toward brokerages in government services.
"We have more than 1,100 Korean companies in the UAE," Al Marri noted, advocating circular economy initiatives and inviting Korean companies to contribute to artificial intelligence, agriculture technology and farming.
Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri has been UAE minister of economy since July 2020. In addition to his ministerial role, he holds key positions as the chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority, the UAE International Investors Council and the Board of Trustees of the CSR UAE Fund. Al Marri holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Sheffield in England.