Export Market Guide - United Arab Emirates

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All regulatory information for exporting wine to UAE, including the regulatory environment, duties and taxes, and permitted additives.

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Um al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, formed in 1971. The UAE is in the Middle East on the Arabian Peninsula.

Since unification, the UAE has transformed from an impoverished region with an economy based on pearl production, fishing, agriculture, and herding, into a modern, economically flourishing state with a standard of living amongst the top nations in the world. The region has vast oil resources and the economy has been built on the world demand for oil. The UAE has the world's fourth largest conventional oil reserves and seventh largest natural gas reserves. It is the Middle East's second largest economy, after Saudi Arabia.

 Up to 80 per cent of the population are non-nationals. Many immigrants come from India and other Asian countries, attracted by the high wages and employment opportunities.

The UAE is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In 2003, the GCC implemented a Customs Union to reduce the trade barriers and remove the import tariff between GCC member states and to provide a common external import tariff for goods imported from non-GCC countries. Alcohol is one of the few products not covered by this common tariff rate as it is a sensitive item and prohibited in some GCC member states. Alcohol is banned in the emirate of Sharjah.

The UAE and Australia initiated negotiations for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, however, alternate negotiations for a GCC-wide Free Trade Agreement commenced in July 2007. Bilateral relations between the UAE and Australia are friendly and growing. 

Although a strict adherent to Islam, the UAE is aware of and takes into account the differences between the UAE and the West, and tries to balance the western and eastern lifestyles in order to minimise any cultural clashes.[1] Most Emiratis are of the Islamic faith and consequently, the consumption of alcohol is not permitted. The UAE government has been clamping down on illicit trade between emirates in order to prevent sales made legally to Muslims in neighbouring emirates. Alcohol is usually consumed by expatriates and tourists but is strictly controlled. Around nine per cent of the population is Christian.

The alcohol market has experienced immense growth in the UAE in recent times, driven by the influx of foreign companies, expatriates and tourists.

Care should be taken when packing and packaging your product due to the hot humid climate in the UAE. Ensuring your importer has access to proper storage and distribution facilities will help make sure your products will not be damaged. The summer months of May to September can be uncomfortably hot.

Due to the restrictions on alcohol consumption, advertising material is not allowed except at point of sale. Magazine advertising is permitted, however, the content must be in English and aimed only at tourists. The expatriate working population is expected to continue to increase particularly in Dubai, and to a lesser extent Abu Dhabi, and consequently the alcoholic drinks market is expected to remain strong.

[1] DFAT Country Brief - www.dfat.gov.au/geo/uae/uae_country_brief.html

Regulatory environment

As a member of the GCC the UAE adheres to its laws and regulations relating to common external tariff rates and importing requirements. Sensitive items may be exempted from GCC laws and regulations. Alcohol is such an item and consequently the UAE controls the levels of taxation internally. The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) is the responsible body, in cooperation with other members of the Gulf Standards Organisation (GSO), for developing or adopting all standards. The Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW) is responsible for establishing and enforcing food safety regulations and laws based on recommendations made by the GSO and the National Food Safety Committee (NFSC) on food related matters.

The importation of alcohol is strictly controlled. There are no specific labelling or wine composition regulations in the UAE.

Import procedures for the UAE market

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Duties and taxes for the UAE market

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Labelling requirements for the UAE market

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Wine standards for the UAE market

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