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|12 June, 2018

UAE has no room for illicit trade

Emirates is the best country in the Middle East and Africa to tackle illegitimate business

Second-hand luxury handbags are displayed at a Milan Station outlet in Hong Kong. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Second-hand luxury handbags are displayed at a Milan Station outlet in Hong Kong. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The UAE is a safe haven not just for individuals but for businesses as well, thanks to its strong regulations and strict implementation of laws for protecting copyrights and fight against all kinds of illicit trade.

Bearing the fruit for these efforts, the UAE has been rated the top country in the Middle East and Africa to fight illicit trade and 34th out of 84 nations worldwide, revealed Global Illicit Trade Environment Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (Tracit).

More importantly, the UAE is the third best nation in the world that offers right domestic environment that discourages the supply and demand of illicit goods.

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The UAE scored 67.8 points of 100, outscoring Cyprus, Italy, Turkey, Greece, China, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and dozens of other countries. The average overall score in the Global Illicit Trade Environment is a shade under 60.

According to Christopher Clague, managing editor, Asia and global editorial lead, trade and globalisation, The Economist Intelligence Unit, various estimates by trade councils, business associations and think-tanks showed that the size of global illicit trade to be between $650 billion (Dh2.385 trillion) to $3 trillion (Dh11 trillion).

"These estimates are expected to go up as criminals become better at exploiting new technologies and taking advantage of legal loopholes," he said.

On the supply and demand sub-index, the UAE scores even better at 82 points and was ranked third worldwide after New Zealand and Singapore. On the government policies sub-index, the UAE scored 70.3 points and was ranked 35th. While on the transparency and trade, it was rated 58th with 43.7 points and 52nd on customs environment.

In the Middle East and Africa, the UAE is followed by Turkey by scoring 62.3 points, South Africa (61.7), Saudi Arabia (58.8), Tunisia (56), Algeria (51.5), Morocco (48), Iraq (14.4) and Libya (8.6).

The Middle East and Africa comes third among the 4 regions, with an average score in the category of 44.0. Because of the natural resource wealth that some economies in the region enjoy, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iraq, the region scores well on tax and social security burdens. The region scores poorly on labour market regulations, a measure of the degree of restrictiveness on hiring and firing; Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia all receive the lowest score on this indicator.

Jeffrey Hardy, director-general at Tracit, said governments and intergovernmental organisations need to step up their game and close the loopholes which pose serious threats to the region's security.

"Illicit trade not only hurts consumers and takes revenue away from governments, it threatens the security of nations by supporting transnational criminal syndicates and terrorist groups, and governments and the private sector must work together to fight it," Hardy said.

Reflecting the UAE's zero-tolerance for illicit trade, government bodies in the UAE seize fake goods worth billions of dirhams every year in their campaigns against illicit trade. Most of the goods that are seized in these campaigns are electronic devices, cigarettes, cosmetics, handbags and other counterfeit products of international brands. This year alone, customs authorities in the UAE have confiscated counterfeit goods worth more than Dh1.5 billion.

With a view to combating the trade of counterfeit goods, the UAE government recently issued the Federal Law No. 19 of 2016 on commercial fraud. Under the law, the import, export, re-export, manufacturing, sale, display or acquisition of counterfeit goods is considered an act of commercial fraud and is subject to heavy penalties.

"Off late, authorities have been proactive in seizing and destroying counterfeit goods making it imprudent to sell or buy fake goods. The Dubai Customs' Intellectual Property Rights department has also taken major steps towards educating and raising awareness of the hazards and harms of using counterfeit products," said Priyasha Corrie, associate, Fichte & Co.

She pointed out that "the UAE plays a key role in the region in combating illegal trade, particularly since the country is a hub for global trade. For being a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the UAE has taken important strides towards combating illegal trade in endangered species and banned breeding and ownership of wild and exotic animals."

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