Foreign Policy

On trade, terrorism and Iran, US has a friend in UAE

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In the run up to President Trump’s visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next week, preparations included a visit to the White House by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday. The crown prince likely discussed the president’s anti-ISIS and anti-terrorist agenda, how to blunt Iranian aggression and the robust U.S.-UAE economic and trade partnership. 

The crown prince’s visit to Washington underscores what has become an exceptionally strong bilateral relationship — one focused not just on defense and security but on trade and commerce, as well as common values. 

{mosads}To be sure, the UAE is a critical trade partner to the United States. In fact, the UAE is one of the few partners with which the U.S. has a very large trade surplus.  In 2016, the U.S. enjoyed a $19-billion trade surplus with the UAE, the third-largest among our global trading partners. That is because the UAE is the single largest export market for the U.S. in the broader region — larger than Israel and even India. 


Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the other five Emirates are major importers of U.S. industrial goods, thereby supporting the creation of high-paying American jobs. The UAE’s airline industry alone has created hundreds of thousands of jobs for U.S. workers through its purchases of commercial airliners and associated equipment. In addition, UAE flights to the U.S. each account for approximately $175 million a year in new local revenue to 11 U.S. markets. 

Importantly, the UAE is also home to over 1,500 American businesses and 75,000 American citizens who pay U.S. income tax on their earnings. In a region often characterized by conflict, the UAE has become the most important regional hub of economic opportunity and hope. It’s no wonder that the 2017 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey listed the UAE as the most popular choice for young Arabs in the region for a sixth-consecutive year.

Beyond close business ties, President Trump has advocated promoting peace in the Middle East, challenging Iranian aggression and eliminating the Islamic State from the region. In this regard, the UAE remains an indispensable ally to the United States, which shares no closer security partner in the Persian Gulf.

Indeed, the UAE is not solely a consumer of security provided by U.S. forces, but is becoming a provider of security in its own right and a key U.S. partner in a dangerous and volatile region. The UAE is increasingly on the front lines of military action in the Middle East and the first line of defense with regard to our mutual regional interests. 

The UAE is the only Arab nation and one of only three countries in the world to participate along with the U.S. in six coalition actions over the last 20 years. These actions include the wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Bosnia-Kosovo, the Gulf War and the current fight against ISIS. The UAE also hosts thousands of U.S. troops and has deep intelligence cooperation with America. 

The U.S.-UAE relationship is not just about shared economic and security interests, however. It is also about shared values. The UAE stands apart from the rest of the region for its promotion of responsive government, female empowerment and religious tolerance.

In sum, this relationship is one of shared interests and common values; one based on free trade and open markets and one based on inclusion and diversity. That’s something all Americans can get behind.  


Danny Sebright is the president of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, A Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for stronger commercial ties between the U.S. and UAE. Previously, Sebright served as the Defense Department’s director of the Policy Executive Secretariat for the global war on terrorism from 2001-2002. He also served in the Office of the Under Secretary for Policy at the Department of Defense from 1995-2001, representing Department of Defense positions with other executive-branch policy offices. 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Tags Arabian Peninsula Bilateral relations of the United Arab Emirates Dubai Foreign relations of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan United Arab Emirates
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