As I was sitting in a local coffee shop and sipping on my drink last week, a huge smile suddenly covered my face. I noticed that, at the very bottom of my cup, a little disclaimer read: “Made in the United Arab Emirates.” Despite not being a citizen or resident of the UAE, I was extremely pleased. The fact that the cup of coffee out of which I was drinking was manufactured in the UAE symbolized how close the trade relations between the Gulf states have become and how we’re slowly moving towards a positive future in regional relations between us. Gulf states are distinguished from many other countries in the world in that they possess the most important raw material on which global industries operate: oil. Almost all light and heavy industries require oil to operate. The industrialized countries of the West have used oil in the manufacture of virtually every single product, ranging from planes, trains, and cars, to manufactured materials such as fabrics and textiles. Therefore, it is in the Gulf states’ best interest to start manufacturing goods locally and reduce their reliance on imported products. Growing the commercial and trade relations within the region is of paramount importance to all Gulf states. The sisterly North African countries – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya – already signed a free trade agreement among them. Their partnership focuses primarily on goods whose production is limited in their region. There is no reason for Gulf states not to do the same. We have everything we need to make such an agreement happen, especially given our local experience and expertise, our cutting-edge universities and research institutions, and our natural treasures. Partnering with each other and facilitating free and fair trade within our region is the best way to advance the prosperity not only of the Gulf but also of each country individually. –Mohammed Salem Al-Balhan (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
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