Recognizing the recent and rapid rise of U.S. exports to the Middle East, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina has hired a new representative to help North Carolina businesses grow their sales in that promising market.

The representative, based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will help qualified companies of 500 or fewer employees connect with potential agents and distributors in Arab Gulf nations including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.

International Trade Manager Paul Wyatt, center, part of the EDPNC international trade team based in Cary, North Carolina, recently supported companies participating in the North Carolina booth at Arab Health, a health care conference and trade show held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Participating companies included specialty compression hosiery maker Therafirm, based in Hamlet, N.C.; Clinical Choice, a Greensboro-based medical device manufacturer; and ImmunoReagents, a Chapel Hill-based manufacturer of antibodies and reagents used in life science research.

How promising is the Arab Gulf market? In 2016, Saudi Arabia surpassed Japan to become North Carolina’s fourth-largest export market in overall value of goods sold.

In totals adjusted for inflation, Saudi Arabia purchased $1.68 billion in goods exported from North Carolina in 2016, a 106 percent increase over five years. Over the same period, the value of goods exported from the state to the UAE increased by 46 percent.

Aircraft and defense commodities “have been the big driver in exports to Saudi Arabia,” said Mike Hubbard, Director of International Trade at the EDPNC. “But there are also great opportunities in medical, pharmaceutical and furniture exports to the region.”

Funding for the EDPNC’s new Arab Gulf trade representative is part of North Carolina’s 2017-18 State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant, provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The EDPNC secures and administers the grant funding in North Carolina.

In past years, STEP funds have paid for initiatives to increase North Carolina export activity in Latin America and Europe.

In addition to supporting the new Middle East trade representative, the current 2017-18 cycle of STEP funding will continue to help the state’s small businesses pay for travel and marketing material translation associated with participating in international trade shows throughout the world.

Middle East-focused trade shows the EDPNC attends with North Carolina companies include Arab Health, focusing on health care and trade professionals; Intersec for security, safety and fire protection; the Dubai Airshow; and Index Dubai, an international fair of furniture and design.

To learn more about how we can assist your company in exporting to markets around the world, email EDPNC International Trade Director Mike Hubbard.