By Bernd Debusmann Jr
The UAE's ambassador in Washington DC said that 10-12 years ago, American knowledge of the UAE was at "a very base level"
The UAE’s widely known airlines are the primary drivers of Americans becoming increasingly familiar with the country, according to Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador in Washington DC.
Al Otaiba has served as ambassador to the US since July 2008.
In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Al Otaiba said that American knowledge of the UAE was very different when he first arrived.
“Ten or 12 years ago, when I tried explain to them not just the UAE, but Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, you were starting at a very base level of understanding,” he said.
“But if you go out today and you start taking to people in DC, I’ve noticed that their awareness has increased,” he added. “There’s a lot of reasons for that.”
The main driver of increased recognition of the UAE, according to Al Otaiba, are ‘brands’, such as Emirates, Etihad or the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.
“People have now seen or identified something that they know is part of the UAE,” he said. “And I’d say the airlines have had the strongest impact.”
Other prominent UAE brands - or events - that he believes have had an impact include the Pope’s visit, the Special Olympics, conferences such as the World Government Summit and cultural and educational landmarks such as the Louvre and NYU Abu Dhabi.
Additionally, Al Otaiba said that at a macroeconomic level, the relationship is “pretty good”, with the UAE being the fourth largest trade surplus country for the US in the world. At the moment, approximately 1,500 American companies operate in the UAE.
Combined with the close security cooperation between the two countries, the ambassador said the overall relationship is “rock solid”.
However, Al Otaiba said that the UAE’s diplomatic staff in the US are “always thinking of ways to show who we are”.
“[We want] to bring more governors, more mayors, and get out of DC and bring people who may not have been to the Emirates before,” he added. “We want to open up the aperture and make sure people are aware of who we are.”