The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP based on oil and gas output to 25%. Since the discovery of oil in the UAE more than 30 years ago, the country has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living.

The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up utilities to greater private sector involvement. The country's free trade zones - offering 100% foreign ownership and zero taxes - are helping to attract foreign investors. The global financial crisis of 2008, tight international credit, and deflated asset prices constricted the economy in 2009. UAE authorities tried to blunt the crisis by increasing spending and boosting liquidity in the banking sector. The crisis hit Dubai hardest, as it was heavily exposed to depressed real estate prices. Dubai lacked sufficient cash to meet its debt obligations, prompting global concern about its solvency and ultimately a $20 billion bailout from the UAE Central Bank and Abu Dhabi-emirate government that was refinanced in March 2014.

Dependence on oil, a large expatriate workforce, and growing inflation pressures are significant long-term challenges. The UAE's strategic plan for the next few years focuses on economic diversification and creating more job opportunities for nationals through improved education and increased private sector employment. (Source: Central Intelligence Agency)

Macro economy:  The United Arab Emirates is the second largest economy in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. It is also the eighth largest oil producer globally and a constitutional federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. While oil has been a major contributor to government revenue, the country has been pursuing a policy of economic diversification. The strategy is to increase investment in industrial and other export-oriented sectors, including heavy industry, transport, petrochemicals, tourism, ICT, renewable energy, aviation and space, and oil and gas services.  

Islamic economy: The UAE is ranked second in the Global Islamic Economy Indicator. The ranking evaluates quality of the overall Islamic economy ecosystem a country has relative to its size.  The Emirates is second on the index with strong scores in Halal food, finance and travel. Currently, the UAE ranked third in the Global Islamic Finance Development Indicator. Several initiatives undertaken by the government to promote and develop the Islamic Economy combined with being one of the safest destinations in the Middle East for investments as well as a living makes UAE a prominent hub in the Islamic Economy.

GIEI Ranking2
Halal Ranking3rd in Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) / Crescentrating; 3rd in Global Islamic Finance Development Indicator
Major Industries

Crude Oil

Natural Gas


Dried Fish



Transport Equipment



Source: Central Intelligence Agency




Halal-related agencies Intro
Halal compliance guidelines Intro

Over the years, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology has necessitated the provision of quality infrastructure, monitored the activity of credit through development, sustainability, ensured compatibility and met requirements of international practices, and procedures with the demands of the region. Following Dubai's achievement during the last economic and social period, it has now resurfaced with refined objectives to preserve the predominant goals and continue to value the efforts of physical investments provided by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology.

 To achieve this vision, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology has taken prior measurements.  Issued by the 19 Council of Ministers Resolution No.10 of the national legislative system for Halal products in January 2014; the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology has now introduced a special 'Emirati system' for the control of Halal products. This system comprises of basic elements pertaining to Halal products, destination certificates and accreditation bodies such as the Halal certification mark that constitutes the optimal model to ensure the sequence of processing, and obtaining Halal products.

Halal-related trade and trading

United Arab Emirates (UAE) is second on the Global Islamic Economy Indicator with strong scores in Halal Food, Islamic Finance and other sector ecosystems. It has particularly strong scores in Islamic Finance, Halal Food and Travel where it ranks as top three. Several initiatives under-taken by the Government to promote and develop the Islamic economy combined with being one of the safest destinations in the Middle East makes UAE a prominent hub in the Islamic Economy.

(Source: The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2015/2016)

OIC member Yes
Other regional/global membershipsWTO, United Nations, OPEC
Investment and Export Promotion Agencies Intro

 Emirates Investment Authority (EIA) is a sovereign wealth fund

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is a sovereign wealth fund

Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC) is a sovereign wealth fund

International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) is a sovereign wealth fund

Mubadala Development Company (Mubadala) is a sovereign wealth fund

The UAE maintains a position as the major trade and investment hub for a large geographic region, which includes not only the Middle East and North Africa, but also South Asia, Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The country ranked 12th of 143 economies in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 overall Global Competitiveness Index, and 22nd of 189 on the World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business report, moving up seven places and one place respectively from the previous year. Multinational companies cite the UAE’s political and economic stability, rapid population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, fast growing capital markets, an absence of corporate and personal taxes, and the absence of evidence of systematic corruption, were all positive factors contributing to the UAE’s attractiveness to foreign investors. Despite regional headwinds attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), UAE's inward FDI held at USD 10.1 billion in 2014 according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), slightly down from USD 10.5 billion in 2013.

The UAE government (UAEG) is, however, opening up trade sectors in line with its World Trade Organizations (WTO) obligations. Investment laws and regulations are slowly evolving with the goal of making the UAE more conducive to foreign investment. The UAEG recently passed a new Companies Law. There is an additional eighteen draft laws which are meant to address a number of concerns that have discouraged foreign investment in the UAE. These laws include insolvency and arbitration laws, in addition to a draft foreign investment law. The UAEG has publicly declared its commitment to cutting red tape for foreign investors with the intent of becoming the most competitive economy in the Gulf as well as one of the top economies globally. (Source: U.S. Department of State-2015 Investment Climate Statement-United Arab Emirates)

Investment and Export Promotion Agencies Names Emirates Investment Authority
Trade Agreement

The UNCTAD reports that the United Arab Emirates has 46 bilateral investment treaties, of which 31 are in force, and 14 other international investment agreements, of which seven are in force. There is currently no bilateral investment treaty between the U.S. and the UAE. However, a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed in March 2004, and it has served as a basis for dialogue. As a member of the GCC, the UAE is covered by the U.S. - GCC framework agreement for trade, economic, investment, and technical cooperation as signed September 2012.

The United Arab Emirates Federal Customs Authority lists some of the more recent trade agreements with other nations.

Company ownership limits
(foreign and local)

Over the decades, the Emirate of Dubai has started to look for additional sources of revenue. High-class tourism and international finance continue to be developed. In line with this initiative, the Dubai International Financial Centre was announced, offering 55.5% foreign ownership, no withholding tax, freehold land and office space and a tailor-made financial regulatory system with laws taken from best practice in other leading financial centres like New York, London, Zürich and Singapore. A new stock market for regional companies and other initiatives were announced in DIFC. Dubai has also developed Internet and Media free zones, offering 100% foreign ownership, no tax office space for the world's leading ICT and media companies, with the latest communications infrastructure to service them. Many of the world's leading companies have now set up branch offices, and even changed headquarters to there.