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22 - 23 OCTOBER 2024


With Dh4.61 trillion in trade, the UAE ranks 14th in merchandise exports and 16th in imports globally.

UAE’s Trade Reaches Dh4.61 Trillion in 2023 Amid Services Sector Boom

The UAE continues to solidify its position as a global trade powerhouse, achieving an impressive Dh4.61 trillion in merchandise and services trade in 2023. Despite challenging global conditions, the UAE maintained this substantial level of trade, mirroring the previous year's performance. This remarkable achievement is largely driven by the robust growth in the services sector, as highlighted in a recent report by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Merchandise Trade Performance

In 2023, the UAE's merchandise exports experienced a slight decline, dropping by 5 percent to $488 billion. This decrease, however, did not overshadow the country's significant global ranking as the 14th largest exporter. On the flip side, merchandise imports saw a positive shift, rising by 7 percent to $449 billion. This growth positioned the UAE as the 16th largest importer worldwide. In terms of global share, the UAE's merchandise exports and imports represented 2.1 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.

The WTO report shed light on the broader context of these figures, noting that merchandise imports declined in most economies due to falling prices of commodities such as oil and natural gas. Despite an average price drop of 63 percent in these commodities, the UAE, along with other major energy exporters like Russia and Saudi Arabia, experienced an increase in merchandise imports.

Strategic Economic Partnerships

A significant contributor to the UAE's trade resilience has been its strategic Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (Cepa) with several countries, including India, Georgia, South Korea, and Israel. These agreements have played a pivotal role in boosting trade and strengthening the commercial services sectors. The UAE's focus on such partnerships underscores its commitment to diversifying its economic base and enhancing global trade ties.

Services Sector Surge

While the merchandise trade faced challenges, the services sector emerged as a beacon of growth, offsetting the decline. The UAE government’s strategic shift towards establishing the country as a services-based economy is bearing fruit. This shift is further supported by initiatives to attract top global talent through long-term residency permits like the Golden Visa and Silver Visa for professionals, scientists, and outstanding students.

In the realm of commercial services, the UAE made significant strides, ranking 13th globally. Exports of commercial services surged by 8 percent to $165 billion, while imports increased by 13 percent to $108 billion, positioning the UAE as the 18th largest importer of commercial services worldwide.

Digital Services Growth

Additionally, the UAE has made notable progress in the digital services arena, ranking 20th globally. Revenues from digitally delivered services reached $48 billion in 2023, up from $46 billion the previous year. This growth reflects the UAE's ongoing efforts to integrate digital technologies and enhance its digital economy.

Global Trade Context and Future Outlook

The decline in the UAE’s merchandise exports, as well as those of other Gulf countries, was largely influenced by the drop in oil and gas prices. Despite this, the global merchandise trade saw a 5 percent decrease in the US dollar value in 2023, totaling $24.01 trillion. This decline was counterbalanced by a robust 9 percent increase in commercial services trade, which reached $7.54 trillion.

Looking ahead, the WTO projects a positive outlook for global trade. The volume of world merchandise trade is expected to grow by 2.6 percent in 2024 and 3.3 percent in 2025, as demand for traded goods rebounds following the contraction in 2023.


The UAE’s trade performance in 2023 highlights the resilience and adaptability of its economy. The strategic focus on services, bolstered by key economic partnerships and a commitment to digital transformation, has positioned the UAE as a dynamic player on the global trade stage. As the world navigates the complexities of global commerce, the UAE's proactive approach to economic diversification and innovation continues to pave the way for sustained growth and prosperity.

Source: https://bit.ly/4eTipt1

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