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H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi: I would not be here without the kindness and wisdom of Our Father Zayed

exclusive interview

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Coping with the ever-changing times and competing at various world-class levels, she has become one of the world’s leading women who holds a distinctive strategy and ability to deal with international communities, not forgetting her effective role in bringing the UAE’s foreign trade into a new stage of prosperity.

With heavily responsibilities weighing down on her shoulders, H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, successfully managed to fulfill all her duties. In an exclusive interview with our CEO Sultan Al Jasimi, Her Excellency reveals all:

Q1: First, please tell us more about the high-ranking positions you held throughout your entire career life so far?

A1: I held a number of fulfilling positions for the private sector prior to assuming public office. I was the Dubai Branch Manager for the General Information Authority. Afterwards I was appointed as the Senior Manager of the Dubai Ports Authority’s Information Systems Department, a position I held for more than seven years.

A memorable point in my career was my selection as the UAE’s Minister of Economy in 2004. I became the first women in our country’s history to assume a cabinet position. Four years later I would be have the honor of serving our country as the Minister of Foreign Trade.

Q2: To what extent has the UAE’s worldwide relations evolved?

A2: The UAE’s foreign trade relations have flourished over the years, despite the emergence of the global economic crisis. Last year our foreign trade rose 25 per cent to top USD 272 billion, convincing major investors and corporations to either start or expand business with us.

We are very interested in capitalizing on the economic resurgence of the Eastern hemisphere overall. Our two top trading partners, India and China, are not only from Asia but also represent two of the world’s fastest-growing economies. We intend to leverage these and other Asian partnerships to fortify our foreign trade relations.

Q3: Your Highness was the Minister of Economy before assuming the current position as Minister of Foreign Trade. In your opinion, what makes you appositely eligible that the government gave you the responsibility of yet another Ministry?

A3: The UAE experienced one of its most economically productive periods during my term as Minister of Economy. Under the guidance of my mentor H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and the Ruler of Dubai, I worked hard to guide my country towards economic modernization, diversification into non-oil sectors, and a stronger private sector base.

Despite, the Ministry of Economy does complex work and has huge responsibilities. Given the importance of foreign trade to the UAE’s economy as well as foreign relations, it was decided that a separate entity be established that would specifically focus on our commercial ties and the welfare of our local businesses. The Ministry of Foreign Trade was thus formed, and I was a natural choice to head the fledgling organization given my excellent track record at the Ministry of Economy.

Q4: What are your accomplishments so far in the foreign trade industry?

A4: Since I occupied my position the World Trade Organization has consistently ranked the UAE among the world’s top 20 trading countries. I consider it a major feat that we have presented the Emirates to the world as a major trade and investment hub even amidst the protracted global recession.

I am proud that we have been able to strengthen our commercial ties with our Arab neighbors over the years. It is important for us to consolidate our regional strengths so that we can boost our global confidence.

Q5: Your Highness often refers to a familiar saying of HE Sheikh Zayed – may his soul rest in peace- “Whether a daughter, a sister or a mother to a new generation, the woman is undoubtedly a core pillar to the UAE’s community”. To what extent do you rely on and look up to the advice and recommendations of our beloved late Sheikh Zayed?

A5: I would not be here without the kindness and wisdom of Our Father Zayed. It was he who encouraged me to take up my first ministerial post and believe in my ability to lead our nation to prosperity. He told me that I could achieve anything as long as I worked hard and did things right.

To this day, I carry his wise words with me and urge my fellow women to dream big and not to set limits to what they can do. Every day I serve my country is a day in honor of the legacy of H.H. Sheikh Zayed.

 

Q6: What are the means of support provided to foreign investors? How do you plan to further promote the UAE economy worldwide?

A6: We offer investors many incentives, such as the waiving of corporate and personal income taxes and foreign exchange controls; nominal customs duties on imports that do not exceed five per cent; and fast procedures for granting licenses for various trade, industrial and professional activities.

Our over 32 free trade zones also come with various investment incentives, such as world-class infrastructure, cheap energy and 100 per cent repatriation of capital and profits.

Moreover, we provide a diverse business base which fuelled a year-on-year growth rate of 23 per cent[1] on our non-oil foreign trade rose to around USD 272 billion in 2011. Overall, establishing a business presence in UAE is a straightforward and convenient process, and foreigners can participate in most local business activities.

We intend to continue our active participation in various free trade agreements to draw in even more direct foreign investments. Active participation in regional and global conferences and trade fairs is another important action area. At the local level, we plan to collaborate on more events, investments and ventures with our business partners. In light of nationwide efforts to transition to a digital, knowledge-based society we also intend to maximize the use of technology and media to deliver our message to the broadest audience possible.

The UAE’s latest initiative to enhance its investment appeal is the drafting of a new companies law[2] that represents the biggest set of changes to its companies law in almost three 30 years. It would also increase foreign ownership up to 100 per cent for selected businesses and industries.

Lastly, the UAE is easily accessible to a 1.5 billion consumer market covering Africa, West Asia, CIS countries, and East Europe as well as the areas surrounding the Red Sea and the Gulf. We plan to use these markets as springboards to attracting even more business around the world.

Q7: Any advice to the powerful and leading women in the UAE?

A7: We are very fortunate to be in a country which allows women to pursue their dreams and make a real difference. I would like to tell the women leaders of the UAE to cherish this gift and use their status to inspire more sisters to follow their footsteps. Moreover, I would like to point out that we should not be driven to compete with men but instead work with them for the benefit of our great nation.

We extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Your Highness for granting this interview, which embodies your moral support to Dubai Business Magazine.

Q: What is your advice to Dubai Business, an Emirati magazine developed by Emirati efforts of Mr. Sultan Al Jasimi?

A: Dubai Business lends a vital voice and a unique Emirati spirit to Dubai’s growth plans and ambitions. I commend Mr. Al Jasimi for his visionary leadership and wish this publication the very best. My simple advice is for Dubai Business to continue to firmly uphold its vision and stick to its principles as it accompanies Dubai on its remarkable journey.

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