Luxembourg-UAE ties to expand beyond financial services to space, AI, 4IR: Luxembourg economy minister

Luxembourg-UAE ties to expand beyond financial services to space, AI, 4IR: Luxembourg economy minister

By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 2nd June, 2021 (WAM) -- Luxembourg’s economic relations with the United Arab Emirates, which have traditionally been centred around exchange of services, will expand to many more new areas, including space, fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies, digitisation and artificial intelligence, according to a top Luxembourg official.

In an exclusive interview with Emirates New Agency (WAM), Franz Fayot, Luxembourg’s Minister of Economy and Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, said, "Generally there are a number of areas, which have traditionally been quite strong between our two countries. We are exporting from Luxembourg to UAE, in particular, financial services, that’s the biggest part of our trade balance."

He said Luxemburg exported services worth €305 million to the UAE, and imported services worth €238 million from the UAE in 2019. "The trade volume is irregular, so one year it's very strong but the next year it goes a little bit down."

Of around 20 Luxembourg companies operating in the UAE, some with long-term presence have been selling their high-value products to "the booming real estate sector here." Others are not only doing business in the Emirates but also using Dubai as a hub for Africa and Asia, explained the minister who was on a three-day official visit to the UAE from Sunday to Tuesday.

Room for improvement in economic ties

Apart from exchange of services, "there is room for improvement and that is also something that we discussed with the Minister of Economy and his colleagues as to how we can do that. And I think the way to do this is to encourage more exchange between our two ecosystems to see where it makes sense to work together and to promote our respective markets to each other."

He was referring to his meetings with Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Cabinet Member and Minister of Economy; Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade; and Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, during his visit.

Space, logistics, innovation of companies, training of employees to make them fit for future economy, digitisation in general and artificial intelligence in particular, were the areas of common interest discussed in the meetings, Fayot revealed.

He visited the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) in Abu Dhabi and found it "very exciting."

"We see AI as a very powerful tool to enhance productivity. We have identified a potential collaboration between this university [MBZUAI] and our University of Luxembourg, and our public research institutes working on this subject," the minister said.

Space and 4IR

Luxemburg and the UAE have a good working relationship between their space agencies and have a number of potential common initiatives also in the context of the Expo 2020, Fayot pointed out while talking about his meeting with Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Chair of the UAE Space Agency.

"I think we have a common vision about focusing on space resources and how to develop economic activities in space," he said, adding that developing space technologies and space exploration are also possible areas of cooperation.

The minister visited Dubai Future Foundation and discussed the possible cooperation in fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies. "So there again, I think a lot of a lot of common ground and a lot of potential for collaboration."

First official visit to be followed by more visits

This was Fayot’s first official visit to the UAE and his first foreign trip in 15 months [because of travel restrictions due to coronavirus], since he became the minister in February 2020 he said.

The UAE visit gave him the confidence that international travels could be resumed soon.

"I will be back obviously when the Expo 2020 Dubai begins. I'm planning at least three more trips during this Expo," he said.