Sharjah and ASEAN Strengthen Economic Ties through Non-Oil Sectors
Sharjah has welcomed the ASEAN community’s growing interest in the emirate’s robust and rapidly diversified economy, which attracted USD 1.63 billion in foreign direct investments in 2017 recording a sizeable jump in growth compared to 2016.
Investors, diplomats, expanding enterprises and private businesses representing ASEAN members were brought together on a networking platform, the Sharjah-ASEAN Business Roundtable, organised by the Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah)in collaboration with the ASEAN Business Councils Alliance, recently on Thursday.
Among prominent attendees were HE Samuel Tan Chi Tse, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore in UAE (Chair of ASEAN); HE Syed Md Hasrin Tengku Hussin, Ambassador of Malaysia in the UAE, HE Paul Raymund Cortes, Consul General of Philippine Consulate General in Dubai & the Northern Emirates; HE Low Pit Chen, Consul General of Consulate General of the Republic of Singapore in Dubai, HE Ridwan Hassan, Consul General of Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia Dubai, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); and Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO, Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah).
Sharjah had a well-rounded participation represented by governmental and semi-governmental entities from several sectors, and included HE Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO, Bee’ah – Sharjah Environment Company; HE Ahmed Al Suwaidi, Head of Commercial Investment, Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD); Mr. Ahmed Obaid Al-Tunaiji, Director of Standards Department at the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority; and the Business Development Manager at Gulftainer, Mr. Emerson Buarque, who participated in a panel discussion titled, Investment Opportunities in Sharjah, to suggest ways to grow and expand ASEAN’s business interests in the Middle East region through Sharjah.
Energy has been the most defining component of the economic engagement between ASEAN and the UAE, accounting for almost 33 percent for Thailand’s oil imports, for instance. The roundtable event was designed to focus on the plethora of non-energy trade and investment opportunities offered by Sharjah’s economy, and shed light on ways ASEAN counterparts can tap into further potentials for cooperation in these sectors to make the most of the changing economic interdependencies that have resulted from the growth of the ASEAN and the UAE’s economic standing as one of the Middle East’s largest economies.
HE Samuel Tan Chi Tse, added: “I am delighted to be back in Sharjah. ASEAN and Sharjah are very similar as they share a common interest in taking our business interests beyond borders. We’ve talked about creating mutually beneficial partnerships, which makes today’s gathering extremely important. Sharjah is a fascinating example of balancing development and sustainability for ASEAN members who are currently dealing with the challenges of urbanisation. Lastly, the emirate’s special interest in furthering education and entrepreneurship among the nation’s youth, and we expect to take a leaf out of this book.”
HE Paul Raymund Cortes highlighting business opportunities the ASEAN community has been creating for itself and the world for the past fifty years, and how these can be extended more strongly towards Sharjah. He noted: “ASEAN has been developing a strong yet flexible economic infrastructure with free trade among its members as well as with global partners is buttressed by the policies of good governance. ASEAN and the UAE have a longstanding history of healthy bilateral trade, and today we are here to explore ways we can take this relationship forward with Sharjah and how we can work together and move ahead together to face the challenges of the 21st century economy, and make most of opportunities.”
Highlighting the affinity of both parties towards economic diversification and future prospects, Al Sarkal pointed out: “At the core of Sharjah’s business expansion objectives is to establish mutually beneficial partnerships and promote collaborations with nations and businesses around the globe. We are very excited to explore these possibilities further with the ASEAN community.”
He continued: “Economic diversification is a recurring trend in how business is done on both sides. Last year, the GDP calculations in Sharjah revealed that no single sector had more than 20 percent share in it. From leisure and tourism, environment, healthcare and logistics to light manufacturing and financial services, to name a few, Sharjah’s economy is one of the most developed in the region when it comes to offering investment opportunities in non-oil sectors.”
The Shurooq Executive Chairman added: “The small and medium enterprise sector too is one of the emirate’s strongest suits. Today, the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF) is home to 148 business representing ASEAN members, with Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines representing the vast majority. The Hamriya Free Zone Authority (HFZA) is currently the operating base for 71 more. Sharjah Chamber has 79 ASEAN companies registered as well. The ASEAN population in Dubai and the Northern Emirates is at 664,689.”
Al Sarkal affirmed that the potential for these figures to grow is unlimited because both ASEAN and the Sharjah have undergone an impressive economic turnaround in the past five decades, proving their resilience on the global stage.
Highlighting the role of Invest in Sharjah in intensifying Sharjah Government’s efforts to promote the emirate’s business and investment opportunities in key international markets, Al Musharrkh observed the following during the panel session: “Today’s meeting coincides with the announcement of the launch of the Investors Services Centre, a one-stop-shop Shurooq is creating to exhaustive list of best-in-class business consultancy and facilitation services. We are aiming to launch this service within the first quarter of 2019, and hope new ASEAN businesses expanding into Sharjah will benefit from it.”
He added: “Our first roundtable with the ASEAN business community brings together the results and developments of the numerous roundtables Sharjah has hosted in the past strengthening relations with Southeastern Asian Nations individually, and allows us to highlight our newest and on-going partnerships with numerous businesses from these nations, and how we can work together in boosting bilateral relations as an association and community through non-oil sectors.”
Al Musharrkh invited the ASEAN business community to the fourth Sharjah FDI Forum this December, which will for the first time host a workshop for foreign investors, guiding them about ways to explore and pursue new business opportunities.
Sharjah and the UAE strongly identify with ASEAN’s pro-growth policies and it’s encouraging attitude towards dynamic companies. This roundtable comes just a week after the release of the McKinsey Global Institute Report, which identifies 8 ASEAN members among the 18 outperforming emerging economies it mentions.