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An upsurge in business has sharply boosted imports by the UAE over the past few years to turn into the largest market in the Middle East although it has one of the smallest populations in the region.
Official data showed the UAE's imports of goods and services stood at US$256.4 billion in 2011, exceeding imports by all other Arab nations as well as Turkey for the first time. The report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) gave no data for 2012 but analysts believe the UAE maintained its position as the largest regional market after its trade soared to an all time high last year.
The report showed the UAE was also the second largest Arab exporter after Saudi Arabia, with its exports of goods and services standing at US$287.8 billion in 2011.
Imports by Turkey stood at US$254 billion in 2011 while those by Saudi Arabia were estimated at around US$198 billion.
Egypt came third in the Arab world by imports, which stood at US$60.3 billion. It was followed by Algeria with around $56.6 billion and Morocco with US $49.5 billion.
Exports by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, stood at around US$376 billion, according to the report. Kuwait emerged as the third largest Arab exporter after Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with a value of nearly US$108 billion in 2011. The report gave no 2011 data for Qatar the country was among the top four exporters in 2010.
Saudi Arabia has always dominated the export scene in the Arab world given its massive oil production, now at more than nine million barrels per day.
It had also been the dominant market in the region before it was overtaken by the UAE over the past few years as the largest importer in the 21-nation Arab League.
A recent UN report showed the UAE was ranked 25th largest global importer of goods and 19th exporter in the world last year, becoming the only Arab nation to be among the top 30 markets. The report by the World Trade Organization showed the UAE accounted for nearly 1.1 per cent of the world's total imports of goods of around $15.37 trillion and 1.5 per cent of the global exports of $15.23 trillion.