Commenting on the event, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) CEO, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, said: "While Shurooq has successfully hosted a number of roundtables, this event was the first of its kind aimed at highlighting and exploring the economic, investment, tourism and cultural opportunities that exist between Sharjah and a various Asian nations. The initiative is in line with our vision of enhancing Sharjah's position as a leading investment destination, and provided an invaluable opportunity to link prospective investors with initiatives in the emirate." According to Al Sarkal, the Sharjah-Asia Roundtable took place at an auspicious time - according to the HSBC Trade Connections Report published this February, trade with Asia will be a primary economic driver for the UAE in the coming years. Trade between the UAE and the mainland grew by 35 per cent in 2011 and, looking forward, UAE exports to Asia will continue to grow by a little over 8 per cent a year in 2013-15 and then accelerating to about 10 per cent a year in 2016-20. In fact, at the UAE and China Economic Forum in 2010, it was forecast that the mainland will be the UAE's number one trade partner by 2015, with trade value set to exceed HK$776.28 billion. Considering these statistics, and with a focus on various key sectors - including travel and tourism, logistics, renewable energy and healthcare - the roundtable aimed to facilitating the strengthening of the existing relationships between Sharjah and Asia's business communities, as well as to foster the creation of new connections. In addition, the roundtable provided a platform for Sharjah's various government bodies to coordinate their overall strategies with regards to promoting Sharjah's investment sector and economy. Representatives from government bodies and authorities active in the respective focus sectors delivered presentations highlighting the many business and investment opportunities that Sharjah has to offer. Outlining Sharjah's travel and tourism potential during the Roundtable, Elie Armaly, Director of Business Development at "Shurooq" gave an overview of Shurooq's numerous tourism related development projects, such as the Heart of Sharjah, the Kalba Eco-Tourism project, Khorfakkan Resort, and the lately announced Sir Bu Nuair Island development. In a presentation detailing the services and advantages offered by Sharjah's various freezones, Mr Humaid Al Khatri, Commercial Director of Sharjah International Airport - Freezone Authority (SAIF-Zone), stated: "There are a number of reasons that the SAIF-ZONE has become one the most significant investment and business hubs in the Emirates, of which offering 100% foreign ownership and 100% exemption from personal and corporate income taxes is but one. Since we first started operations in 1995 with a mere 55 registered companies, we have grown exponentially and now are home to well over 5200 companies from a 138 distinct countries, a truly phenomenal achievement,' Al Khatri remarked. He went on the stress that by continuously upgrading their infrastructure, services, and facilities, and ensuring that they offer the latest scientific and technical expertise the SAIF-ZONE, aims to continue to attract foreign investors and thus contribute to Sharjah's economy." Also on the topic of logistics, Ali Al Fadhly, Senior Commercial Executive at Gulftainer Company Limited spoke about the swift development taking place in Sharjah's travel and transport industry. With alternative energy sources and environmental issues at the top of the global agenda, Khaled Al Huraimel at Integrated Environment and Waste Management Company Bee'ah, surveyed the many advances being made in the field of renewable energy and the environment, as well as the vast potential that this sector offers for future economic growth. In the final address, Mr Binu Pisharadi, Commercial Affairs Manager of Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) outlined the excellent investment opportunities in healthcare and related fields available to prospective investors. Summarising Sharjah Healthcare City's main objectives, he stated: "Healthcare is a particularly promising sector in Sharjah, and opportunities abound for foreign players to make strategic investments and tap the potential of the emirate's rapidly expanding healthcare market. Our aim is to set a perfect solution for the ever growing healthcare needs and allied services in the region by encouraging and supporting foreign direct investment in the sector." Al Sarkal concluded: "The roundtable created a highly relevant and effective environment in which to exchange ideas and open up avenues of discussion between Sharjah's authorities and Asian businessmen and investors. In addition, it helped to promote and activate commercial and economic partnerships whilst raising awareness of a number of key sectors, projects and initiatives." Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the emirate, evaluate tourism-related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects.