The Business Year

Eva Walder

UAE, ABU DHABI - Diplomacy

The Trade Is Strong

Director-General for Trade, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden

Bio

Eva Walder is the Director-General for Trade at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Previous positions have included Director-General for Personnel at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to Singapore, Director-General for Asia and the Pacific at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador to Finland.

"Despite instability in parts of the Middle East over the past few years, the UAE stands out as being stable."

What is your perception of the market in Abu Dhabi? Specifically, what sectors and industries do you see having the greatest potential for investment from the Swedish business community?

Sweden is an open economy and welcomes business, interactions, and investment in both directions. The UAE is one of Sweden’s largest trading partners in the Middle East. Exports during 2014 amounted to around $620 million, with steady YoY growth being seen. More than 200 Swedish companies are based in the UAE, and more than 4,000 Swedes reside there, an illustration of the interest shown in the UAE. We see a lot of growth potential in a range of sectors. In particular, I would mention life sciences and healthcare, clean-tech, sustainable solutions including in IT, ICT, research and higher education, corporate social responsibility, as well as many others. Many Swedish companies are at the forefront in these areas and can provide innovative and environmentally sustainable technology for these sectors. Taking into account life-cycle costs and the environmental aspects of an investment, their solutions are strongly competitive. We also want the UAE to discover the creative and artistic side of Sweden. Accordingly, Sweden participated in the European Film Festival both in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai in September 2014. Sweden was also guest of honor at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair in May 2014. Leading Swedish designers, together with their Danish counterparts, will highlight their creations in a back-to-back event with Dubai Fashion Week, “The Style Gallery.” This event at the Dubai IFC will introduce designers and their fashion collections to Emirati partners, buyers, the media, and trendsetters. The fact that the Volvo Ocean Race will make a stopover in Abu Dhabi from December 2014 is another important platform to show all that Sweden can offer. We see a number of both large and small businesses from Sweden active in the UAE and benefiting from the business climate there. Having direct flights between Stockholm and Dubai has also had a positive impact.

In light of the Abu Dhabi Businesswomen Council’s successful participation in the Women’s Forum held in Stockholm in May 2014, how would you characterize the role of Emirati women leaders, businesswomen, and women entrepreneurs in boosting investment cooperation?

We are happy to encourage networks for bridge building. Ideas, business and trade evolve from people and people meeting people. The strong participation of Emirati women leaders at the conference in Stockholm should be seen in this light. Women stand for so much of innovation and creativity in our respective societies. The joint forum is an important interface between Sweden and the UAE, as I can personally testify after meeting participants at this Emirati-Swedish event.

“Despite instability in parts of the Middle East over the past few years, the UAE stands out as being stable.”

The UAE is known for its economic liberalization and business-friendly environment. How does the UAE contribute to facilitating Sweden’s national and economic influence in the surrounding Gulf region?

Despite instability in parts of the Middle East over the past few years, the UAE stands out as being stable and is developing in many areas. We see a steady growth in trade with the UAE and in our Swedish presence in the country. Many Swedish companies perceive it as a regional hub, from where they can operate more widely with excellent access to services, skills, and direct flights.

How do you see the bilateral relations of Sweden and the UAE developing in the public sector in the near future?

Although our relations are excellent, we see further potential for development. There is scope for cooperation in areas such as healthcare and life sciences, infrastructure, future energy solutions, connectivity, traffic, and transportation. We wish to open doors for closer cooperation in domains offering long-term sustainable solutions for our societies. Areas where both private actors and the public sector play important roles are, for example, healthcare, higher education, and research. These are also areas where we see substantial potential.

© The Business Year – October 2014

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