Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah, president and CEO at Dubai Chambers, speaks to China Daily at the Dubai Chambers headquarters on May 3, 2023. Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah said China is the only country where the Dubai Chambers has more than one office, currently located in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The CEO sees a promising trend of Chinese firms setting up in Dubai. (JAN YUMUL / CHINA DAILY)
The number of Chinese companies operating in Dubai has grown to 7,800 in the first quarter of this year amid broadening engagements between China and the United Arab Emirates, according to the head of the Dubai Chambers.
In an exclusive interview with China Daily on May 3, Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah, president and chief executive of Dubai Chambers, which promotes the interests of businesses in Dubai, said that in January and February alone, more than 200 Chinese companies set up office in the city.
“And we noticed an increase in year-to-year growth … which is very promising. I think if we continue with this trend, maybe after a couple of years … Chinese companies, in terms of not only size of business, even the number of companies, will be one of (the) leading ones (among foreign firms) in the city,” said Lootah.
He said that Chinese firms come from diverse sectors with a majority of them in the wholesale business, using Dubai as a hub to export and re-export to the region.
In 2022, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce saw a 20 percent increase in membership to 347,600, with 56,000 new members joining it during the year. Meanwhile, exports and re-exports of Dubai Chamber of Commerce members grew by 20 percent last year, totaling 272.7 billion dirhams ($74 billion)
In 2022, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce saw a 20 percent increase in membership to 347,600, with 56,000 new members joining it during the year. Meanwhile, exports and re-exports of Dubai Chamber of Commerce members grew by 20 percent last year, totaling 272.7 billion dirhams ($74 billion).
Talking about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which supports global infrastructure development, Lootah cited “the J&T experience” as “one of the most interesting cases that is very aligned to the logistics sector and trade as a whole”.
He was referring to J&T Express, an Indonesian logistics company founded by Jet Lee, former CEO of Oppo Indonesia, and Tony Chen, founder and CEO of Oppo, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, that expanded into the Middle East market by using Dubai as a strategic operational base.
It shows that the Dubai market is a great platform for overseas companies, “not only to set up (operations) in Dubai (but) to use Dubai as a regional and global platform for growth,” Lootah told China Daily.
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In April last year, Dubai Chambers rebranded and unveiled a new corporate identity to reflect its restructuring, which was announced earlier by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai.
This came after the Dubai Chambers adopted its 2022-24 strategy, which expands its role as the important organization supporting the growth of Dubai’s economy. The strategy aims to “better serve Chamber members, deliver added value and future proof the Dubai economy in line with the emirate’s new vision and strategic goals”.
Under the new structure, three chambers of commerce operate under Dubai Chambers, namely Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Dubai International Chamber, and Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy — each of which have their own individual brands, strategies and specialized approach, according to the Dubai Chambers website.
Further, Dubai International Chamber opened four new international offices in 2022, growing its international network to 15 offices.
Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah said that China is the only country where the Dubai Chambers has more than one office. Besides Hong Kong, the other two China offices are located in Shenzhen and Shanghai, adding that the number might grow “depending on the demand that we’ll handle”.
“We set up the Hong Kong office as a third office for us in China. Overall, our China offices are one of the most active offices. In terms of the number of inquiries and interests that we get in China, the three offices supersede a lot of other locations,” said Lootah.
He said that China is the only country where the Dubai Chambers has more than one office. Besides Hong Kong, the other two China offices are located in Shenzhen and Shanghai, Lootah said, adding that the number might grow “depending on the demand that we’ll handle”.
“So now we’re exploring … (Should) we expand in terms of headcount to cover the increasing inquiries? Or (should) we diversify the locations?” he said.
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Expansion plans are still under consideration, “but we’re very happy to have very active engagement with the Chinese business community and the increasing inquiries that are coming from the China offices overall,” said Lootah.
On Jan 4, Sheikh Mohammed launched the Dubai Economic Agenda called “D33”, which aims to double the size of Dubai’s economy in the next decade with economic target of 32 trillion dirhams, or $8.7 trillion. This covers 100 transformative projects that range from expanding foreign trade and digital transformation, to name a few.