In his speech, Nasser Alsowaidi said that the Forum represents an important platform for joint efforts aimed at developing and activating economic and investment relations, by creating strategic partnerships to benefit the two countries in many strategic fields, especially those focused on and prioritised by the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 for attaining sustainable economic development in the Emirate.
He noted that the keenness of the Abu Dhabi government to further its business relations with France and attract French investments is reflected by the presence and participation of the government delegation to this important forum, to highlight the investment opportunities in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi under the significant government support enjoyed by many development projects, particularly in areas of business and finance, trade, industry, education, energy, tourism and other sectors.
Alsowaidi said that the economy of the Emirate over the past few years, has seen considerable development, marked by the implementation of major development projects in furtherance of economic diversification in the Emirate and building a competitive knowledge-based economy by focusing on the development of non-oil sectors and injecting money in new investments, including infrastructure, industry, alternative energy, education, tourism and other areas.
The chairman added that the Government Delegation of senior officials will review and discuss the spectrum of investment opportunities offered by development projects, which brought about a qualitative leap in a short period of time, and contributed to strengthening the investment environment, turning it to a more attractive and inviting safe haven for foreign investments in the region.
Nasser Alsowaidi said that bilateral trade between the UAE and France grew by more than 13% in 2012, adding that French exports to the UAE increased from $4.6 billion in 2011 to $4.7 billion in 2012, while UAE exports to France jumped from $1.3 billion to $2.0 billion during the same period.
He went on to point out that Abu Dhabi and France are undertaking many giant development projects, which have contributed greatly in shaping the future of economic relations between the two sides, notably the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum project, nuclear cooperation, and the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, among others.
According to Alsowaidi, France ranked second among top investors in Abu Dhabi, with investments constituting 7.4% of the total FDI in Abu Dhabi in 2009, adding that the number of French companies conducting business in Abu Dhabi has increased significantly over the past few years.
The Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has made vigorous efforts to strengthen the role of the private sector, through the creation of a more favorable environment, and significant amendments to policies, legislation and regulations to facilitate private sector activities, as well as undertaking large-scale investment in major infrastructure projects to help set an enabling environment and provide opportunities in a strong and dynamic economy.
Nasser Alsowaidi said that according to latest estimates, the Abu Dhabi private sector’s contribution to GDP in 2012 increased by 6.5% to account for 33% of the Emirate’s GDP, which reflected a growing desire among many private companies to set up new businesses or increase the size of their existing business activities in Abu Dhabi.
He revealed that significant financial support of the Government for the implementation of a package of diversified development projects worth $90 billion, over the next five years (2013 – 2017) would provide appropriate investment opportunities for foreign investors in many sectors, including infrastructure construction, education, health and others.
Mohammad Mir Abdullah Al Raisi, the UAE Ambassador to France, said at the inaugural meeting of the Forum: “In the UAE, we look forward to further successes at the level of bilateral relations with France, in the belief that such relations are distinct and foresee a promising future under the partnership that has been laid over the years, which has contributed to increased foreign trade and growing investment projects between the two sides”.
The ambassador said that the Forum brought together Abu Dhabi and French senior officials, businessmen and investors, and reflected the openness of the Abu Dhabi Government towards investment. It revealed its inviting and promising market, given the Emirate’s opportunities for foreign investors and the package of development projects undertaken, and their magnitude and value, to suit the French wealth of culture and history.
He said that economic relations between France and the UAE were long standing and deeply rooted, stating that more than 450 French companies are currently operating in the UAE, and more than 18,000 French citizens reside in the State, adding that the total value of French exports to the UAE last year amounted to more than 3.5 billion Euros.
The forum convened six working sessions, which were addressed by the senior government officials accompanying the UAE delegation, who elaborated on various business and investment opportunities in different sectors of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.