Organised by the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade, through ICEX Spain Export and Investment and in collaboration with the Spanish Chamber of Commerce and the CEOE, the meeting, which took place yesterday, aimed to bring Spanish companies closer to the reality of this market and the business opportunities that exist in the country, despite the impact of the pandemic on its economy. To this end, it included a programme of seminars and sectorial panels in which representatives from both the public and private spheres participated.
From Monday 24th to 26th November, business conferences will be held between Spanish and Emirate companies from the following sectors: agro-industry and agro-technology, water and sanitation and health. It is estimated that around 100 B2B meetings will be held, according to journalist Carmen Barahona in El Correo del Golfo.
The objective of this meeting was to bring Spanish companies closer to the reality of the market and the business opportunities that, despite the current world situation, still exist in the Arab country. Specifically, the activity is aimed at companies belonging to the agro-industry and agro-technology, water and sanitation and health sectors.
The opening ceremony was moderated by Julieta Casanova, commercial attaché of the Economic and Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy in Dubai. The business meeting began with a talk by Andrés Salinero, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Spanish Embassy in Dubai, and Guillermo Cobelo, President of the Spanish Business Council in the United Arab Emirates. In the talk, moderated by Jaime Montalvo, International Director of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, experiences of Spanish companies established in the United Arab Emirates were presented.
With regard to the water sector, the United Arab Emirates, in order to alleviate the natural shortage of this resource, has carried out a large number of projects in recent decades and there are currently great opportunities for Spanish companies.
The programme also included a panel on opportunities in the water sector, moderated by María Peña, CEO of ICEX Spain Export and Investment, with the following participants: Bruce Smith, Director of Forecasting and Planning of Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC); Fahed Ahmed al-Awadhi, Director of the Drainage Projects Department of the Municipality of Dubai; Mohammed Eid Ibrahim, Director of the Water Operation and Maintenance Division of Al-Ain Distribution Company; Julio de la Rosa, Director of Acciona Water UAE; and José Miguel Santos, Director of Aqualia Middle East.
The event closed with a panel on the health sector, with speeches by Amin Hussain al-Amiri, advisor to the Under-Secretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing of the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention; Waheed Abdul Aziz al-Mulla, director of the Department of Facilities and Services of the Ministry of Health and Prevention of the United Arab Emirates; Álvaro Martínez, general manager of Asisa UAE; Mónica Figuerola, director of Business Development of Quirón Hospitals; and Gonzalo Cabrera, director of Health at Minsait Iberia and Middle East of INDRA. The last panel was moderated by Braulio Peramo, Director of the Al-Ain Fertility Clinic.
In the case of the health sector, in which the UAE invests 4.11% of its GDP, ICEX stresses that it has experienced a steady rise over the last decade, mainly due to the progressive increase in public-private partnerships, a growing life expectancy and the introduction of compulsory health insurance in some emirates. It also reveals that in the health field "the government is making significant efforts to position the country as a reference destination for world medical tourism and is continuing with its plans to modernise the country's hospitals with the latest technology".
The minister said she was convinced that the Spain-US Business Meeting will be "very useful" and that "it will strengthen our trade and investment relations".
For his part, the Emirati Minister of Economy, according to the El Correo del Golfo newspaper, has described this meeting as "successful" due to the participation achieved. Relations between the Emirates and Spain, he said, "have been growing and gaining strength, and there is a chance to continue to make progress and have more well-being in the future, and to be able to strengthen trade relations, which have reached more than 1.4 billion dollars in 2020, a very important figure despite the COVID-19, which has had a very negative impact on trade". Spain, said Abdullah al-Marri, is "one of the most important countries in the European Union as a trading partner".
In order to make this cooperation smooth, the minister stressed the importance of creating a corridor between the UAE and Spain "to reactivate and strengthen ties in sectors such as tourism, health services and agro-technology" not only between the two nations but also with the markets of both regions.
The minister also stressed that "the presence of Spanish companies in the Emirates is growing" with more than 200 companies established in a variety of sectors such as infrastructure, engineering, transport, the environment, new technologies and tourism. Maroto admitted that she is "proud" to know that some of the emblematic projects that have been carried out in the Emirates in recent years have been developed by Spanish companies.
According to the Spanish minister, "strengthening international trade" is going to be key to reviving the Spanish economy. In this regard, she stressed that the Emirates and Spain "are two top-level economic partners" and that in the future they intend to "continue to deepen" their bilateral relations and that a boost will be given in the joint commission to be held between the two countries in the first quarter of 2021, which will allow progress to be made on issues on which they are working, such as "the future signing of the bilateral investment agreement", according to statements made by Carmen Barahona in El Correo del Golfo.
In the Emirates, the minister pointed out, there is "a policy and openness of trade and economy" and to strengthen exchanges with countries they want to focus on "research and development". For this reason, he said, the Government "is laying the foundations for progress in innovation, sustainability, health and agro-technology". In this regard, Al-Marri has offered companies to take advantage of "all the opportunities of 2020".