Exporting guide to

United Arab Emirates

Overview

A key hub on the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the UK's most important trading partners and continues to be a growth market for UK exports.

Trade statistics

£15.6 billion total UK exports to United Arab Emirates for the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: January 2024)

13th largest UK export market

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: January 2024)

1.8% of total UK exports for the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: January 2024)

Growing, diverse economy

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a large export market for the UK. The Department for Business and Trade in the UAE have identified sectors of shared interest which have become more prevalent following COVID-19, including life sciences, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, fin-tech, and financial services.

Strategic location

Dubai is a regional hub and commercial capital for the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. The UAE is a major entry route into other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and an important market for re-export into other countries. Its liberal trade regime attracts capital from across the region .

British presence

There are over 5,000 British companies operating in the UAE, including BP, Rolls Royce, BAES, Mott McDonald, SERCO, Standard Chartered, HSBC and Waitrose. 779 commercial agencies and 4,762 British brands have invested in the UAE. 100,000 UK nationals live in the UAE and 1.5 million people visit each year (pre-COVID).

Top five UK goods exported to United Arab Emirates , in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023

Goods Value (£ billion )
Mechanical power generators (intermediate) 1.4
Unspecified goods 1.2
Cars 1.0
Telecoms & sound equipment (capital) 0.5
Jewellery 0.3

Source: ONS Trade in goods: country-by-commodity exports
Last updated: February 2024
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for United Arab Emirates.

United Arab Emirates: at a glance

Economic growth

7.9%

Actual figure (IMF, 2022)
The UK is 4.1% (IMF, 2022, actual figure)

GDP per capita

$43,439

Actual figure (IMF, 2021)
The UK is $46,422 (IMF, 2021, projected figure)

Currency

UAE dirham

Business languages

Arabic, English

Arabic is the official language with English widely spoken

Time zone

GMT +4

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High potential industries in the country for UK businesses

There are opportunities for UK companies across a broad range of industries. Our trade advisers in the UAE have identified particular opportunities for UK businesses in the following sectors:

Check for trade barriers

Trade barriers, such as tariffs or taxes, can raise costs, cause delays, or even stop you from exporting. Check for any issues that may impact your business when exporting.

See current trade barriers

See resolved trade barriers

Check duties and customs

Find information on how to export goods from the UK. View the duties, rules, restrictions, and the documents you need for your products.

See current duties and customs procedures

Doing business in UAE

Preparing to export

VAT

VAT was implemented in the UAE on the 1 January 2018 at 5%. Read more about VAT in the UAE.

Import duties

The customs duty rate on imported goods is usually around 5%. Higher rates apply to alcohol and tobacco. Some categories of goods are exempt, such as certain agricultural products, printed material and pharmaceuticals. Goods imported for industrial or manufacturing purposes may also be exempt.

You won’t have to pay customs duties on goods imported into a UAE free zone.

Customs documents

The documents you need to export goods to the UAE are:

  • invoices (initiated by the supplier)
  • a certificate of origin
  • bills of lading or airway bill

Regulations

The UAE prohibits and restricts the import of some products. Find out which items are restricted or prohibited.

Other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ban and restrict different goods, so if you want to re-export within the GCC make sure you check the relevant country’s regulations.

Packaging requirements

The Gulf Standardization Organization (GSO) sets the framework for the UAE’s packaging and labelling requirements.

All UAE food imports must provide the following information in Arabic, either as part of the packaging or as an affixed label:

  • products and brand name
  • lot identification
  • production and expiry dates
  • country of origin
  • manufacturers name
  • net content weight in metric units
  • list of ingredients and additives in descending order of proportion

Product standards

In addition to the Saudi-based GSO, the UAE also operates under the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA). ESMA is a federal body which sets standards in the UAE on a wide variety of consumer products from food and drink to toys. It often introduces new standards for products coming in to the UAE, like quality marks. Check the ESMA website for new announcements.

Trade barriers

Check for any reported barriers to trading with the UAE.

Report any trade barriers that are affecting your business so we can help fix them.

Operating in UAE

You should always seek legal advice when doing business in the UAE, whether it’s finding a distributor or agent or setting up an office or representation in the company. There are many English speaking legal firms in the UAE who often specialise in company law.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and rights granted in the UK do not provide protection elsewhere. You should consider getting IP protection abroad if you want to trade overseas or sell to overseas customers via the internet.

The Intellectual Property Office provides practical information to help you protect, manage and enforce your IP abroad. Further support for British businesses can be found through a network of IP attachés, based in key UK export markets.

View guidance on IP in the UAE on GOV.UK.

Business language

English is widely spoken throughout the country. Although it’s common for written correspondence to be in English, Arabic is often preferred within some public sector organisations. It’s a good idea to have one side of your business card printed in Arabic.

Business culture

Face-to-face meetings are preferred in the UAE because phone calls and emails are sometimes seen as impersonal. However, WhatsApp is increasingly used as a means of communication and LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are becoming more popular and are used for the promotion of business.

The working week in UAE is Monday to Friday.

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