For the second year in a row, GTR has collaborated with big data company Coriolis Technologies to produce our annual Trade Briefing, which provides an overview of the Mena region’s trade and growth, zeroing in on export and import partners and sectors as well as recent geopolitical trends. These 20-odd pages that appear at the start of this publication uncover the trade flows in and with Mena to help inform your, our readers’, understanding of the region.

As noted in last year’s Trade Briefing, Mena is particularly poor at reporting trade data, and this continues to be the case this year. However, there have been some improvements in data collection processing, both at the United Nations and at a country reporting level as the region drives for better compliance, which has reduced the number of missing data points in country statistics. This improved data and revised trade values has revealed some new and interesting facts. We now know, for example, that it is the UAE – and not Saudi Arabia as was reported last year – which is the region’s largest exporter.

Also included in this year’s Trade Briefing is a report on the ongoing Qatar blockade, which GTR has been monitoring closely, and which has had the whole region on edge. Interestingly, what Coriolis’ data has uncovered is that thus far there has been very limited impact on Qatari trade and GDP growth, although only time will tell what the long-term trend will be.

The Briefing also takes a look at new opportunities for Mena trade with Africa, and provides a detailed regional overview of services trade, a sector which is likely to see real diversification going forward.

The data uncovered in the Briefing has also been used to inform our journalists’ country and sector-specific features which appear in the pages that follow. This year we have chosen to focus our reports on Egypt, a country in need of a sustainable growth path, the UAE, which is increasingly looking to Asia for long-term trade partnerships, and infrastructure, with the Middle East now one of the most active export credit agency-backed regions in the world.

Elsewhere in this publication we also feature snippets from our annual Mena trade leaders roundtable, which includes conversations about the implementation of VAT and recent fintech developments, amongst other trends.

Available to all online is a video that documents our first Mena-based GTR Women in Trade Finance event, which took place in Dubai in February. The event debated essential questions such as whether the trade finance industry is in need of a culture change and what measures it can take to attract more female talent.

In this issue: