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Ahead of Global Trade Development Week 2014, we spoke to H.E. Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director of Dubai Customs (DC) about the implications the event has for SMEs in the region, and entrepreneurship as a whole. This year's summit will be held under the theme of "Global Customs and Trade Facilitation" at Emirates Towers in Dubai, UAE from October 27 to 29. Held under the patronage of H.E. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Ministry of Economy, the event will welcome business and government figures from over 80 nations, and over 600 global trade, development, economic zone, trade finance, development of industry, and real estate individuals.
Have there been any substantial changes in the regulations in terms of corporate imports and exports? How will these changes affect SMEs operating in this sector?
Once the requirements for the final-stage implementation of GCC Customs Union are completed, unified customs procedures will be applied to all GCC countries to regulate the importation and exportation of goods from/to the six nations. SMEs are among the businesses that will surely benefit from the implementation of the customs union. Customs duties for exported goods will be collected only once at the first customs port of entry to be crossed by such goods within the customs union area. So this will ensure a secure, fast and efficient flow of goods into the markets.
How does Dubai Customs encourage entrepreneurship? Do you feel that existing Dubai Customs regulations are good for business growth?
Dubai Customs is keen on developing efficient communication channels and establishing solid ties with its strategic partners. Through its advisory council, the department seeks to actively cooperate and coordinate with various trade and business sectors in Dubai. Our advisory council organizes regular meetings for the leadership team at DC with more than 18 business clusters representing Dubai's major industry sectors. [These meetings] are aimed at putting forward new projects, action plans and programs through which we can support and promote entrepreneurship. Indeed, current laws are lenient and all services are available online around the clock, which led the UAE to be ranked fourth globally in "Trading Across Borders", as per the World Bank's Doing Business Report 2014.
What do you feel is the biggest move forward that Dubai Customs has made in the past two years?
Dubai Customs (DC) made a number of notable achievements in the past two years in various areas. Perhaps the most prominent of which is transforming into the first fully smart government department, delivering our services on mobile phones to customers non-stop 24/7 wherever they are. DC developed an integrated services platform, which not only features request submission facility, but also ensures the submitted request is processed immediately after submission. The system also notifies applicants by email that their requests are being processed and the timeframe required until they receive the service requested.
In respect to trade, Dubai Customs made another remarkable milestone, as Dubai's non-oil foreign trade scaled a new peak in 2013 to hit Dh1.329 trillion with a Dh94 billion growth compared to Dh1.235 trillion scored in 2012. Another major milestone for Dubai Customs was organizing and hosting the WCO IT Conference and Exhibition 2013. Hosted for the first time in the Middle East, the conference was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. It presented a global forum that brought together customs administrations and border agencies from around the world to better coordinate their efforts in trade facilitation, border protection and safeguarding communities.
As far as technology development is concerned, DC devised Al Kashif [The Detector] vehicle, which is a mini golf cart that smoothly moves between passengers and helps in the detection of 16 prohibited items in passengers' luggage without much fuss. It's equipped to carry out drug analysis in just seven minutes- a process that formerly took seven days. Al Kashif quickly proved its efficiency and effectiveness in detecting illicit imports. Over its first month of service, the new invention helped our inspectors deter the smuggling of many unlawful imports in 15 different seizures. The development bagged the Innovative Idea Award at the 2013-2014 DGEP 17th edition. In addition, our advanced container scanning system recently claimed the DGEP's Distinguished Technological/Technical Project Award. It's the latest world-class integrated system for containers and trucks X-ray screening. The device is capable of scanning the contents of 150 trucks per hour moving at 8 to 15 km/hour.
What do see as the biggest security issue in terms of customs and import products?
The way DC sees security issues is different than the way they are seen by other authorities. DC takes into utmost consideration any security menace as it is one of the main agencies that are entrusted with the national, economic and social security of the country. Today, we are living in a fast-changing world where trade and transportation modes have developed dramatically. Also, the UAE is geographically located at the crossroad and connecting point between East and West, thanks to its advanced infrastructure. The biggest security issue for Dubai Customs resides in the control of dual-use items to impede their export to certain states and organizations that may utilize them for evil purposes. Moreover, we should not forget the dangers of smuggling drugs – whether natural or synthetic – which are often linked to organized crime. However, all such issues can be surmounted in the most efficient way through cooperation and concerted efforts of all concerned parties.
What do you expect will be the benefits of Global Trade Development Week for the UAE business community?
Global Trade Development Week brings to Dubai 600 government and business leaders from over 80 countries to discuss and find solutions for today's most challenging trade and development issues. This event presents an excellent opportunity for the UAE business community. The basis of this event is that international trade is an engine of growth and a source of strength for the global economy, a belief that is no doubt also held by the UAE's business community. We're proud to have worked with the organizers of Global Trade Development Week to launch a new summit especially dedicated to customs and trade facilitation issues at this year's event. The agenda of this interactive summit will focus on the role of customs in enhancing international competitiveness, and finding the right balance between effective control measures and the facilitation of trade. An agenda that discusses the facilitation of international trade and the reduction of barriers to trade is of great interest to any legitimate business that trades internationally.
The high-caliber of the speakers and participants taking part in Global Trade Development Week presents a fantastic networking opportunity; this allows the business community to build on international relationships and seize on opportunities to expand by connecting with trade leaders and investors from around the world.
As part of Dubai Customs' aims to promote Dubai as the trade and business gateway of choice, we are inviting the delegates for a tour of our customs facilities– we are delighted to host such an esteemed group and it is with pride that we will show them our first-class facilities and services that make Dubai Customs one of the world's best performing customs authorities. We hope this event gives us the opportunity to actively contribute to worldwide efforts aimed at supporting legitimate trade and safeguarding the security of societies, as well as to further leverage Dubai's global position as the region's premier trading hub– which surely will impact positively on both the UAE and Dubai's business communities.