Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I’m honoured to address such a distinguished audience.
I would like to start by thanking the Australia UAE Business Council, and its co-chairs, the Honourable Christopher Pyne and His Excellency Badr Al-Olama, as well as all the individuals who despite very challenging circumstances, have made this event possible.
I’d also like to convey greetings from His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and express his deepest gratitude for the presence today of the Honourable Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia.
Ladies and gentlemen, since the establishment of the democratic relations in 1975, the UAE and Australia have been bound together by strong and long-standing ties ranging from – trade, tourism, investments and culture, to people-to-people contacts ultimately leading to mutual benefits for both our nations.
Both countries are strong political, economic and military partners. Australia is one of the region’s most important economies given its trade, natural resources and dynamic human resources.
While the UAE is the main trade gateway to the Middle East and an active international economic hub between Asia, Africa and Europe. Our bilateral, economic relationship is significant and multifaceted.
The UAE is Australia’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, as well as one of the largest investors in Australia, the total volume of non-oil trade exchange between the two countries reached nearly $4 billion in 2019.
In 2019, more than 316 thousand Australian tourists visited the UAE and 37 Emiratis visited Australia. In addition, the UAE hosts more than 15 thousand Australian residents who make valuable contribution to the UAE society and economy, as well as cross cultural exchanges between our two people.
Prior to the pandemic, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways operated up to 116 weekly flights on regular bases between the two countries. We are certain that once the pandemic subsides, this connectivity will return to its normal frequency, with a possibility of increasing numbers due to our commitment to further our economic cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the world’s economics, including the Arab region adding a significant burden to an already challenging regional situation. This pandemic is a global crisis that requires coordinated international response and cooperation.
Nevertheless, thanks to the effort of the frontline health workers, government officials, technological advancements and societal cooperation, the UAE has been able to limit the spread of the virus using science as its guideline and using a very extensive policy of tests and tracing.
At the same time, the UAE has been able to provide equal access to treatment for everyone effected, implementing unprecedented measures to protect citizens as well as residents in the UAE.
Furthermore, as I mentioned, we have been a pioneer in the number of tests that we have conducted and that has helped us immensely in addressing the pandemic and keeping the correct balance between what the economy needs and what the health situation dictates.
In this context, I would like to welcome the decision to inaugurate this business council, despite the pandemic, and express my deep gratitude for the large presence of major companies on both sides. I truly believe that this Council will accelerate the growth of our economic cooperation in the years to come, as well as enhance investment and trade exchange.
Last, but by no means least, I would like to emphasise that both our countries must continue to deepen cooperation, including in various sectors, such as aviation, tourism, technology, agriculture, education and health. This will be key to ensuring the post-coronavirus economic growth and recovery for both countries, and indeed the world.