Azerbaijan is interested in Gulf countries
By the end of this year Azerbaijan plans to send two export missions to the United Arab Emirates to promote its national Made in Azerbaijan brand to the markets of the UAE and other countries of the Persian Gulf. According to Elnur Aliyev, the Azerbaijani trade representative in Dubai, there are a lot of medium and small enterprises in Azerbaijan that want to enter the Arab market, therefore more than ten Azerbaijani companies are expected to participate in the forthcoming export mission to Dubai. Elnur Aliyev said that the quality of Azerbaijani agricultural products exported to the UAE is quite high, but given that this market is very developed, in addition to quality, much attention is paid to the supplies stability.
The Arab News pays attention to the activation of Baku’s relations with the Gulf countries in its article New era for Azerbaijan as it builds bridges with Gulf. The article reads that Azerbaijan has relatively high standard of living compared to some of its neighbors in the Caucasus. But the nodding donkeys are a metaphor for the Azerbaijan economy, demonstrating that, even as Azeri policymakers push through ambitious plans to diversify away from energy dependency, the traditional money-earners remain the core of economic activity.
For a time after the collapse in the oil price in 2014, the Azerbaijan economy teetered on the brink. The currency, the manat, went into free fall, and there were at least two bone-jarring devaluations against the dollar. After a sharp contraction in GDP after the oil shock, the International Monetary Fund is now forecasting a resumption of growth, by around 2 percentage points, this year. The recovery in the global oil price has helped a lot, of course. Current account surpluses are predicted this year and next.
Economists also say that the non-oil economy gathered strength in the first half of this year, with accelerated industrial production a highlight, as well as increased demand by domestic consumers. That increased demand reflects a rather profound development: Azerbaijan, especially Baku and its surrounding area, has become a rather pleasant place to live, and to visit. A lot of money has been spent making the capital’s downtown district a glamorous center, belying the old image of Soviet dourness. International sporting events — the annual Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, international athletic competitions and football tournaments — provided the opportunity for a major makeover, and now the Old City district is a tourist trap to rival any in the region. Visitors from the Arabian Gulf and other Islamic countries seem to be in the majority, followed by Russians, with Asians also looking to see one of the historic stops on the old Silk Road.
The Azerbaijan government obviously thinks it is on to a winner here, especially in the Middle East tourism market. Visa restrictions on GCC residents have been significantly relaxed recently, with citizens and residents of most Gulf counties able to purchase visas on arrival.
Serious trade relations between Azerbaijan and Gulf countries have followed the growth in tourism numbers. Earlier this year, the governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), Abdullatif bin Ahmed Al-Othman, led a delegation of businessmen from the Kingdom on a visit to promote bilateral trade and stimulate foreign direct investment. The UAE has also been ramping up its trade relations with Azerbaijan.
The country has weathered the global financial crisis and the oil shock of 2014, and — global upsets apart — could be on the cusp of an era of economic transformation.