Sharjah-Korea Business Roundtable explores trade synergies in competitive sectors

Roundtable encourages Korean investors to tap into the limitless investment potential of Sharjah
HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal at the Sharjah – Korea Business Roundtable
HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal at the Sharjah – Korea Business Roundtable

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The Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), operating under the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), in collaboration with Korea International Trade Association (KITA), organised a Sharjah–Korea Business Roundtable on Feb 17th at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), to explore greater economic ties and synergies between Sharjah and Korea and introduce the emerging prospects and investment opportunities in competitive sectors to Korean investors.

While highlighting the sectors such as transportation and logistics, light manufacturing, travel and leisure, environment, technology and innovation, healthcare, education and research, start-ups and SMEs,  that have traditionally played an important role in enriching Sharjah’s FDI appeal, the roundtable also drew attention to new and emerging sectors where economic cooperation between Sharjah and the Republic of Korea could be expanded.

The roundtable placed a special focus on areas in which Korean companies could engage with Sharjah to grow their presence in the MENA region such as sports, education, agriculture, renewable energy, space technology and ICT development.

More than 85 trade professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, Sharjah government officials and business stakeholders attended the Sharjah–Korea Business Roundtable which also emphasised the ease of doing business in Sharjah.

Prominent attendees included HE E.Chun Young-wook, consul general of the Republic of Korea in Dubai; HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, executive chairman of Shurooq; and Gi Hyun Kim, president of Korea International Trade Association KITA.

Representing Sharjah government entities included HE Hussain Mohammed Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP); HE Dr. Abdel Aziz Al Muheiri, director, Sharjah Health Authority; HE Shihab Al Hammadi, authority director, Sharjah Media City (Shams); Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO of Invest In Sharjah; Mohamed Bin Kuwair, senior director of International Projects, Bee’ah; and Mr. Emerson Buarque, General Manager – Business Development, Gulftainer.

KITA members at the event included Do Hyung Lee, chief representative, Export-Import Bank of Korea; Si Kyung Nam, managing director, Posco International; Tor-hyung Kim, vice president, Hyosung; and Hyo Won Lee, general manager, Ssangyong E&C.

The UAE and Korea has completed 40 years of diplomatic relations and the ‘special strategic relationship' the two nations share is continuing to enhance investment cooperation in several key sectors. Around 200 South Korean companies currently operate in the UAE with two-way trade between the two nations amounting to $14 billion (AED 51bn).

Sharjah showcases diversified business potential to Korean investors
From food to automotive and fashion industries, Korea has had a presence across key B2B and B2C sectors in Sharjah. As of October 2019, the emirate is home to 37 registered onshore and offshore Korean companies.

HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, executive chairman of Shurooq, said: “Our business infrastructure boasts a strong network of free zones and industrial zones that continues to grow. We have been undertaking a range of measures to boost foreign investment flows, which is supported by competitive advantages such as strong connectivity and low operating costs by regional standards.”

Al Sarkal urged participating Korean businessmen to use the roundtable as a platform to tap into the limitless potential of Sharjah.

“By combining our specific expertise and investments in space technology and ICT development, for instance, we can take proactive steps to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said. “Sharjah is always open for business, and Shurooq is open for new partnerships.”

Shurooq signed an MoU in 2018 with REI Holding Group, Korea’s global investment corporation, to encourage bilateral investments, collaborate on industry information and expand business networks in both countries.

Kim said: “Korea is an ideal economic partner for UAE as it is a major technology powerhouse with increasing investments in innovation and advanced technology.”

With more than 73,000 member companies from start-ups to established MNCs, KITA is positioned as the ideal platform for companies in the UAE and MENA region to discuss partnership opportunities.

In a panel discussion at the event titled ‘Investment Opportunities in Sharjah’, senior officials representing the various Sharjah government entities shared local business expertise and shed light on the new and evolving opportunities in their respective sectors to the Korean delegation. The panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Choi also served as a platform for several KITA members to present their specific areas of expertise and lines of businesses with the participating Sharjah entities.

Exploring Sharjah’s diverse sectors
Set up to spark innovation and technology, SRTIP is focusing on six new-generation tech areas, namely, transport and logistics, environment technology, digitalisation, production design & architecture, energy, and water technologies, pointed out HE Hussain Mohammed Al Mahmoudi, as he called upon Korean investors and businessmen to take advantage of the innovation ecosystem in place at the free zone.

Al Muheiri highlighted the tie up between Shurooq and REI’s Haewon Medical Foundation Sejong General Hospital to establish the first Korean hospital in Sharjah as a strong indication of the emirate’s position as a healthcare destination across the GCC and the wider MENA region.

Al Musharrkh said: “Our four main focus sectors comprise of tourism, renewable energy and environment, logistics and transportation, and light manufacturing or advanced manufacturing. A key distinctive strength of Sharjah is its strategic location with three seaports covering both ends of the UAE, the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. In addition, we have a highly competitive logistics industry and well-developed infrastructure to enable smooth flow of goods on land, sea or air while our specialised free zones offer superior services, facilities and attractive incentives for any type of investor. The forward-looking national economic policies of the UAE and Sharjah’s efforts in achieving balanced, sustainable growth by enabling mutually beneficial relationships between the government and investors, has seen increased interest from Korean companies." 

At the FDI Forum in Sharjah in 2019, the Gyeonggi Province of South Korea was an active participant and an MoU signed with their investment promotion arm is opening up new avenues for economic cooperation.

Bin Kuwair highlighted how Beeah is pushing the boundaries of environmental innovation and crossing remarkable milestones to achieve the zero-waste strategy of Sharjah. Beeah is an excellent example of a commercially viable public-private partnership that successfully showcases the strength of the investment climate for new industry sectors in Sharjah, he added.

Al Hammadi stated that Shams is striving to attracting businesses from various sectors by providing unique facilities and services that support entrepreneurs and encourage them to expand. 

“Our primary aim of participating in the Sharjah-Korea Business Roundtable is to present attractive investment opportunities in the emirate, and to highlight key regulations that protect investors. As an entity that provides mentorships to entrepreneurs and supports SMEs, we are committed to participating in activities that provide opportunities for sharing business ideas and discussing various development plans which contribute to driving growth and achieving sustainability,” he said.

Buarque emphasised that it was the strategic facilities and advanced logistics infrastructure in Sharjah that has been instrumental for Gulftainer’s 40-year success in the emirate, continuing to give it a competitive edge in global trade and commerce today.

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