Dubai – Investment promotion between developing countries and a repeal of protectionism marked the opening ceremony and the first panels of the Annual Investment Meeting, a conference on foreign direct investment (FDI) that began this Monday (09) in Dubai. “We wish to connect emerging and developing countries,” said the minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates, Sultan Bin Said Al Mansoori, in a speech.
Facing the possibility of a trade war between the United States and China, the deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Yonov Frederick Agah, who also attended the opening, remarked: “No issue is more important today than to revive international cooperation.”
Both issues also permeated the forum’s first two panels, which planned to discuss the promotion of sustainable growth via foreign direct investments. “Foreign direct investment and trade were the drivers of growth in emerging and developing countries in the last few decades,” said South Korea’s minister of Industry, Trade and Energy, Kim Hyun-Chong, in a lecture at the event’s opening.
Unlike the economy and world trade, both registering growth, FDI flow dropped last year over 2016, but remained stable among developing countries, according to Mansoori. FDI flows reached their all-time peak in the remote year of 2007.
“A decade ago, the world was different, FDI and trade were trending up, which coincided with the growth of the international economy, poverty reduction and globalization development,” said Agah. “It has been many years now since that openness ceased,” he said.
Today, emerging nations are not only receivers of FDI, but also sources. Government officials and representatives from private companies presented their models for the attraction or generation of investments.
Badr Al Olama, CEO of aerospace company Strata, owned by Abu Dhabi-based holding company Mubadala, said that the UAE was successful in signing deals with giant companies Boeing and Airbus because the region is currently the world’s main buyers of large aircraft.
“And we are loyal, whether the market be going up or down,” noted Olama. He added that the country is used for making joint investments with international investors, which inspires confidence. “We encourage companies to invest with the UAE,” he said.
Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, remarked that the continent needs foreign investments to grow, but that most of the capital going to Africa is being invested in the production of inputs, and that Africans need resources to be directed to other sectors, to help diversify the region’s economies.
As an example, she mentioned power generation and, especially, solar energy. “There are 600 million people with no access to power in Africa and that’s a great investment opportunity,” she pointed out. The panel’s mediator remarked that Songwe is a person that “sees the glass half full”, since she looks at a deficiency as a potential opportunity.
The secretary-general of the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA), Sindiso Ndema Ngwenya, said that the bloc of 19 countries is more than a free trade zone, it’s a common area of investments. “The UAE, for instance, has been acquiring companies in the region,” he said. “And in 60 days we will be 21 countries, since Tunisia and Somalia will join,” he added.
The vice president of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Paulo Portas, said that legal certainty and judicial system efficiency are very important to bring FDI in. “No country is competitive in all areas, you have to choose where to be competitive,” he remarked. “To establish an investment policy is key, FDI could face instabilities, but not permanently,” he said.
Meanwhile, the deputy minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Giorgi Cherkezishvili, said that success in attracting FDI dpeends on political resolve, political stability, clear rules, ease of doing business, economic freedom, low tax and fight against corruption. “Corruption is the major barrier to FDI,” he said.
The secretary-general of the UAE International Investors Council, Jamal Saif Al Jarwan, added that the size of markets is an appealing feature to investors, as is the signing of investment protection agreements. “Infrastructure investment is one of the most complex types of investment,” he remarked.
Yussuff Ali, chairman of the supermarket group Lulu, which does business in many countries, pointed out that the investor has a “social responsibility” to the country in which he’s opening a business.
In the opening, which was attended by Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, emir of Dubai and UAE vice president and prime minister, minister Sultan Al Mansoori presented an online platform called UAE FDI Dashboard, with data on the global flow of investments. He also argued for “more investments in the [UN] sustainable development goals.” “They are much needed,” he stated.
Translated by Sérgio Kakitani