The United Arab Emirates and Australia form an integral and comprehensive relationship that spans the vast Indian Ocean. Since the UAE embassy's opening its embassy in Canberra in 1997, the relationship between the two great lands has gone from strength to strength.
The UAE and Australia have shared a long-standing and sound bilateral relationship based on trade, in areas such as minerals, oil and gas, and agricultural items such as grains, meat and livestock. Important categories as they may be, there have also been improvements in air and sea links between the nations have also grown and more Australians are now visiting the UAE, both as tourists and on business; in large part due to our national carriers – Emirates and Etihad.
Despite the large geographic separation, strong parallels exist between the UAE and Australian economies. Both countries are commodity exporters: the agricultural and mining sectors account for more than half of Australia's export income, while oil accounts for a similar proportion of the UAE export earnings, and we both have vast mineral reserves.
Both economies are roughly equivalent in size (in GDP per capita terms), and we have a common goal to pursue policies that aim to reduce reliance on volatile commodity prices by strengthening and diversifying our economies.
The UAE is proud to have over 15,000 Australians contributing to the UAE's ambitious development agenda through their expertise in the health, education, financial, legal, design and construction sectors. We have sent almost 2000 Emirati students to study in Australia and many thousands of Emirati and Australian tourists visit each other's countries every year. Our cultural love for sports has brought us together in various ways, including Abu Dhabi's recent hosting of the Australian V8 Supercars.
The UAE and Australia have signed a number of bilateral agreements covering a range of issues. A long-standing economic cooperation agreement provides for joint ministerial commission meetings. To further strengthen trade and investment ties between the UAE and Australia, the UAE expressed support for the early conclusion of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Australia.
Climate change is an important matter to both our countries. We thank Australia for the strong backing it gave the UAE for its bid to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to be located in Abu Dhabi, where it now resides. Renewable energy and climate change issues are just one of the many links that bind our two countries together.
The late founding father Sheikh Zayed once stated that: "The real spirit behind the progress is the human spirit, the able man with his intellect and capabilities". It is this guiding spirit that underpins the UAE's keenness to extend bridges of cooperation and strengthen relations of friendship with Australia. It is a mutual UAE-Australian responsibility to nurture this valued and precious responsibility of friendship, ensuring it reaches ever greater heights.