Given the present downturn, another focus is to discourage protectionism within the region and throughout the world. We need further stimulation of the global economy to expedite the recovery process.
What is the most important trade issue in your country’s relations with the United States?
Today, the UAE is home to more than 30,000 Americans and more than 750 vibrant American-owned businesses. Even in terms of trade relations, we maintain a strong association with the U.S.; we are in fact the single largest export market for U.S. goods and services in the Arab World. Our bilateral TRADE WITH the U.S. in 2008 was around $15 billion, representing an increase of 32 percent over 2007’s $11.5 billion.
We are also heavily involved in several university and non-governmental organization partnerships with the U.S. that promote knowledge transfer while advancing local capacity. Prominent U.S. universities that have ESTABLISHED their own programs and facilities in the UAE include New York University, Michigan State, George Mason, and Harvard University. Moreover, faculty from Johns Hopkins and partnerships with Cleveland Clinic, Harvard Medical School, and Mayo Clinic continue to advise us on public health issues.
You have given lectures around the world on gender issues and equality. Why is it important to you to talk about gender issues? What is the most important change that needs to happen to improve the treatment of women worldwide?
I am a firm believer that the true progress of a society or a nation can be determined by the way it treats women. Progressive thinking and economic prosperity are meaningless unless women are given the respect and honor they deserve; women should always be considered equal to their male counterparts. This is another area where the UAE is setting a fine example for regional countries. In the UAE today, women have proved their worth in every domain, be it medicine, engineering, media, sports, FINANCE, or politics.
During my first cabinet post as minister of economy, my initial challenge was to demonstrate the ability of women to lead and to participate in governance. Today, women in the UAE hold four seats in the federal cabinet as ministers and occupy nine seats in a total of 40 seats in the Federal National Council, the country’s supreme legislative body. This is in addition to a large number of key posts women hold in various ministries and local governments.
Among your many accomplishments is developing a customized manifest documentation system for the Dubai Port Authority, reducing cargo turnaround from one hour to 10 minutes, and devel-oping the leading online BUSINESS-to- business company in the Middle East. What role did your training at Chico State play in such accomplishments?
My professors were consultants in the field who sent us to Silicon Valley for our projects and assignments, so I was exposed to real-life scenarios that taught me to be diligent, disciplined, and accurate. My classes were very competitive, and we had study groups that emphasized teamwork, so I learned a lot about leadership and group dynamics. All of these experiences helped me perform above expectations in the organizations I MANAGED and worked for.
What drives you in your WORK?
The fact that I have a rare opportunity to make a major contribution to the growth and sustained progress of my country, which I am so proud of, is inspiration enough. I hope to be a role model who inspires other Arab women to fight all obstacles and pursue their dreams.