Let’s Work Together

Exporting Blog Series: The Middle East

Mar 26th, 2012

Andy Reinke – I just returned from Dubai on business and wanted to share this experience, not because of the uniqueness of the destination, unique though it is, but for the business opportunities that nation (United Arab Emirates), and much of the Middle East, represents to Indiana companies wishing to energize their exports. Dubai, home to the World’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa) and largest indoor mall, is one of seven Emirates that jointly form the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is located South of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Dubai is a bit of a paradox. Among the richest lands on earth, Dubai has no centralized sanitation system, relying on constant collection by tankers of the city’s thousands of septic tanks. While traditional Arab wear and adherence to Muslim custom is common place, you’re likely to find women dressed both in burqas or abaya’s as well as jeans at the local Starbucks, or men dressed in Levis as well as thawbs or kanduras (long white or cream-colored gowns) topped with turbans, drinking Coca-Cola’s while behind brightly colored American-made cars (I saw several Dodge Chargers, Hum-V’s and Corvettes in particular). As an avid world traveler, even I was amazed at the region’s dichotomous mix between Arab and Western culture.  Somehow, the mix worked quite well from what I witnessed.

Now – back to doing business in the UAE.  You should know that US exports overall to the UAE have nearly doubled from $8.1 billion in 2005 to a record $15.9 billion in 2011 despite a rough economic patch for this Gulf Coast Country during the financial crises. Many of the products showing the strongest growth for US exports between ’05 and ’11 are those in which Indiana does especially well, including:


% Increase of


% Increase of


Transportation Equipment
(cars, motor homes, campers, trucks)



Computer and Electronics



Machinery (except electrical)






Fabricated Metals



Electrical Equipment, Appliances



Agricultural Products


17% down

Source:  Foreign Trade Division – US Census Bureau


I was in Dubai for the Middle East Electricity 2012 Trade Show, which rivals the IEEE hosted in the US every other year, the industry’s largest. Although large with hundreds of firms exhibiting from over 50 countries, the US had only 14 firms participating. My client’s products were well-received, with our general impression that for the money and effort expended in cost and travel, the trade show was well worth the effort having met over 60 meaningful contacts from 22 countries spanning the Middle East, the Far East, north and central Africa and Europe.

The visitors to our booth could not have been happier to see us, commenting that it was good to see American companies of all sizes exhibiting at the show. We were told numerous times by the Middle Easterners present that they not only preferred but often only bought US or European-made equipment within our sector (power distribution equipment). We were given an RFQ at the show for equipment in Uganda, met with a customer to whom we’ve sold before and who’s currently considering a large quotation, and had many offers from representatives and distributors well within our industrial product mix to further our efforts throughout the Middle East.

In essence, I encourage readers to consider the Middle East as a viable export market. Cultural differences and distance often dissuade fellow Hoosier businesses from considering the Middle East, but you should know of that region’s growing affection for American-made goods reflected in the large increases overall of US and Indiana exports to the UAE, and to the Middle East in general.

A Tip:  When travelling overseas for business, minimally have your cards translated into the language of the host nation. Our translated cards were a big hit, receiving smiles and favorable comments as the cards were presented, Arabic-side up.

Although we don’t yet have a free trade agreement with the UAE, we do have favorable trade relations with that Arab nation and throughout most of the Middle East with some obvious exceptions, and do have free trade agreements with Bahrain, Israel, Jordan and Oman.

Should you wish to consider the Middle East for export growth, please contact your local ISBDC office to receive assistance in export market assessment.

Andy Reinke is the President of Foreign Targets, Inc. (FTI)  an export management company creating and managing proactive export programs for small and medium sized manufacturing firms.  This is achieved by utilizing a proven methodology:  FTI’s Core-8 Steps to Export Management. Read more about export in the ISBDC’s Exporting Your Products and Services FAQ Page.