22 July, 2024
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AACCI’s Chairman, Mohamed Hage OAM, says MENA trade growth tocontinue: Australia’s two-way trade with MENA exceeds $25 billion

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Australia’s trade with the MENA region from 2020 to 2023 showed consistent and significant growth.
The trade volume increased from A$16.2 billion in 2020-21 to A$26.3 billion in 2022-23, highlighting
a robust and expanding trade relationship (Refer to Figure 1). According to Mohamed Hage OAM,
this thriving trade relationship is a testament to the mutual economic benefits and opportunities
arising from enhanced collaboration between Australia and the MENA countries in recent years.
Hage predicts that trade will continue to grow with this region as organizations become more
familiar with the diverse business landscapes and uncover new opportunities for collaboration.

In 2022-23, trade with the MENA region comprised 74.7% of Australia’s total trade with Middle
Eastern and African countries. This dominant share is depicted in Figure 2, emphasising the MENA
region’s crucial role in Australia’s trade strategy with Middle Eastern and African countries. This
substantial percentage underscores the strategic importance of MENA in Australia’s broader trade
landscape, suggesting focused efforts to further strengthen these ties.

The four most significant two-way trade relationships between Australia and the MENA region are
with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain. Figure 3 below demonstrates a robust and consistent increase in trade volumes with these countries from 2020 to 2023,
highlighting the strengthening economic relationships between Australia and these strategically
important nations. Each country exhibits unique growth patterns, reflecting varying degrees of
economic engagement and potential for future trade expansion.

Source DFAT, Australia’s direction of goods & services trade – financial years from 1989–90 to present.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE stands out with the most significant growth in trade volume among the analysed countries.
Australia’s trade with the UAE increased from A$5.7 billion in 2020-21 to A$9.4 billion in 2022-23,
representing a remarkable 64.7% growth over three years (refer to Figure 3). This substantial
increase underscores the UAE’s pivotal role as a trade hub and a key partner for Australia in the
MENA region. The growth trajectory suggests a deepening of economic ties, likely driven by
diversified trade in goods and services, strategic investments, and robust bilateral agreements, such
as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) announced in December 2023.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is another critical trade partner for Australia, with trade volumes showing consistent
growth from A$2.8 billion in 2020-21 to A$3.6 billion in 2022-23, a 26.3% increase (refer to Figure 3).
This steady rise reflects the solidifying trade relationship between the two countries. The trade
growth is likely fuelled by Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms under Vision 2030, which aim to diversify
its economy and enhance international trade partnerships. Australia’s exports to Saudi Arabia include
beef, sheep meat, barley, wheat, dairy products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, vehicle parts, and
accessories.

Qatar

Trade with Qatar also demonstrated significant growth, rising from A$2.1 billion in 2020-21 to A$3.3
billion in 2022-23, marking a 61.8% increase (Refer to Figure 3). This rapid expansion highlights
Qatar’s growing importance as a trade partner. The strong bilateral trade relationship is driven by
Qatar’s strategic investments in infrastructure, energy, and real estate, coupled with Australia’s
expertise in these sectors, as well as Australian exports including Australian exports of alumina,
meat, and engineering services. The data indicates a robust economic partnership, with potential for
further growth as Qatar continues to develop its non-oil economy.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s trade with Australia experienced a robust increase from A$1.2 billion in 2020-21 to A$1.8
billion in 2021-22, followed by a further rise to A$1.9 billion in 2022-23 (refer to Figure 3). This 55.6%
growth over three years highlights the deepening economic ties between the two nations. In fact,
Australia is Bahrain’s third-largest import source, with Australian exports mainly comprising alumina,
meat, dairy products, and wheat.

Conclusion

Australia’s trade with the MENA region, while only 2.1% of its total global trade in 2023, has shown
significant growth, highlighting the potential for expanding economic ties with these countries.5
The MENA region’s abundant natural resources and strategic location offer numerous opportunities for
Australian businesses to diversify and strengthen their trade portfolio. AACCI Chairman Mohamed
Hage OAM stated that “some of the fastest growing economies are located in the MENA region,
which is providing an increasing number of opportunities for Australian businesses. Hence,
Australia’s two-way trade with the region has recently exceeded $25 billion”. By capitalising on this
growth, Australia can enhance its economic resilience, reduce dependency on traditional markets,
and foster stronger geopolitical and diplomatic ties.

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