New Zealand Trade & Enterprise | Gulf Opportunities Showcase

Prepare your business to succeed in the Gulf

Learn how to make the most of Expo 2020 and the unique opportunities available in the Gulf region.

Great opportunities, perfect timing

Diverse and globally connected, the Gulf region offers opportunities for New Zealand companies in a variety of sectors, including high-value food and beverage, specialised manufacturing and technology. With Expo 2020 Dubai less than 2 years away, there’s never been a better time to discover your potential in the Gulf region.  

Expo Leveraging Programme

NZTE is developing a business leveraging programme to accelerate growth for NZTE customers in the lead-up to, and beyond, Dubai Expo 2020. Check back here in early 2019 to find out more.  

Doing business in the Gulf region: FAQs

About Expo  

How can my product be showcased in the New Zealand Pavilion at Expo 2020? The New Zealand at Expo 2020 project team recently ran an Invitation to Participate procurement process seeking products for the New Zealand Pavilion, which closed on 2 November. Applications are currently being assessed in consultation with the pavilion design, services and hospitality teams.  

This does not mean that there are no other opportunities to be involved in the future. If you think your product could be used in the operation of the Pavilion (for example, food and beverage for the restaurant or objects for the design store) you may email to register your interest.  

There are also a number of other ways in which you can participate, including sponsorship and attending Expo 2020 to connect with other international participants. For more information, see the website or discuss with your NZTE Customer Manager. 

How can participating in Expo 2020 benefit my business? Expo 2020 offers many opportunities including the ability to connect with international business people, secure leads, close deals, launch or demonstrate products, host clients in the Pavilion’s hospitality spaces, see the latest innovations from around the world and be part of the New Zealand Story. For more information on how to participate, speak to your NZTE Customer Manager, or see the New Zealand at Expo 2020 website:

Are there wider procurement opportunities for the Expo 2020 event? The United Arab Emirates Government has established an online portal for procurement opportunities relating to the wider Expo event. These include IT services, security, entertainment, food and beverage, uniforms and more. Register online for the opportunity to respond to Expo 2020 tenders:

What can you tell me about the Expo business leveraging programme and delegations? Development of the leveraging programme is in its final stages. NZTE will reach out to businesses that have expressed interest early in 2019.  


About the Gulf region  

How is Dubai a hub to other markets? Dubai’s favourable geographical location positioned between Asia and Europe, combined with significant investment in transport and logistics infrastructure, has transformed the city into a hub to reach the rest of the world.  

There are several dozen free zones in Dubai, which enable companies to set up an export operation to reach the wider Middle East, South Asia and Africa region faster than if they were located in mainland Dubai.  

  • Dubai Airport is the world’s busiest, handling more than 88 million passengers each year.  
  • It’s estimated that 70% of the food imported into the UAE is sent onwards, either directly or further processed in Dubai before being re-exported across the Middle East, Africa and into south Asia.  
  • Re-exports of all goods grew by 13% in 2018.
  • One-third of the world’s population lives within a 4-hour flight from Dubai, while two-thirds is reachable within 8 hours.  
  • The UAE continues to focus on a move away from long and expensive supply chains, encouraging businesses to set up manufacturing facilities within its borders and providing the infrastructure to make it possible  

What are the cultural similarities in the region? New Zealand and Arab cultures have a lot in common. For example:

  • There are similarities between the majlis and the wharenui in a marae. Both are places for discussion and debate and sharing stories. 
  • Both cultures value and take time to build personal relationships – this can happen through the sharing of food, acknowledgement of ancestral links and respect for kaumatua (elders in Māori society that are held in high esteem)
  • Both cultures have similar long term views, often looking several generations ahead when making decisions. This extends to the philosophy of kaitiakitanga or guardianship – looking after things for future generations.
  • Emirati and Māori both press noses as a greeting. In Māori this is called a hongi, while in Arabic, only men nose “kiss” or mukhashameh.
  • Both countries have small populations but punch well above their weight on the global stage.  

In the Gulf region building personal relationships before delving into business is very important.  

The commonalities between New Zealand and Arab culture can open up more trading opportunities for New Zealand companies, particularly Māori businesses. The unique point of difference gives Kiwi businesses a competitive advantage here.  

Does being a woman affect doing business or being successful in the region? No. There are lots of businesswomen and women Ministers in the United Arab Emirates, in fact a cabinet reshuffle in 2017 now means nine women make up the 32-member strong group.  

On the whole women are well respected in the Gulf region and well represented in key areas like tertiary education, Government and increasingly in sports and business.  

Dressing modestly is sometimes a requirement in parts of the Gulf. In Saudi Arabia it’s a good idea for women to wear long trousers or skirts and full sleeve shirts or tops, or an abaya in particularly formal settings. It’s not necessary for a woman to cover her hair in Saudi Arabia, however it’s probably a good idea to wear hair tied back.  

The United Arab Emirates is a bit more relaxed and women can generally wear the same sort of attire as they would in comparable situations in New Zealand. For example, at a business or government meeting formal business wear is required (this goes for men too – suit and tie, please!).

Can you describe the ease of doing business in the region? According to the Ease of Doing Business 2019 report released by the World Bank, the UAE ranks 11th globally. This is the same report that ranks New Zealand as number one. Other Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also made improvements.  

Like most export markets, the region has challenges. Many of which can be addressed via good planning. For further information specific to each Gulf country, take a look at NZTE’s Market Guides.  

What about Halal? There isn’t a universal halal standard and even within the Gulf region each country has different regulations. Halal certification is mandatory for meat products and sometimes required for other products like dairy and confectionary.  

As New Zealand has a halal regulatory system for meat and dairy products, liaise with the Ministry of Primary Industries if you’re in the meat and dairy sectors.  

If your importer wants your product to be certified halal, there are certification bodies in New Zealand that can provide this service, however make sure this certification body is approved by the country you want to export to.  

For more information about halal visit the Meat Industry Association website or contact the Ministry of Primary Industries.  

The halal economy is growing globally and expected to be worth $6.4 trillion this year. Halal food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, tourism, fashion, and media are all contributing to the growth of the halal economy. Dubai is positioning itself to be a global hub for the halal economy by establishing facilities to process halal food products, particularly meat.

I understand that the way of life there is quite difficult, is that true? It depends where you live – certainly life in the Gulf region is different to life in New Zealand but there are lots of benefits to living in this part of the world.

  • Year-round sunshine (although sometimes it really is too hot with temperatures reaching 50 degrees)  
  • Fantastic base for travelling. It’s incredibly well connected so a long weekend in Europe, parts of Africa and south Asia is do-able – a novelty for many New Zealanders.  
  • A melting pot of people allows you to build personal and professional connections with people from all over the world.  

Nowhere is perfect and there are a few downsides: 

  • The bureaucracy can be more intense than most New Zealanders are used to but there’s a wide circle of expatriates to lean on and professional advice is readily available.
  • It’s very transient so people you have built a relationship with can leave very suddenly.
  • Things can move very quickly or very slowly, so it’s important to be patient.

What are the sector specific opportunities for NZ businesses? There are many areas of opportunity throughout the Gulf however at NZTE we feel these areas broadly fit well with New Zealand companies’ expertise.

  • Technology  

The region’s preference for disruptive and innovative technology can play to New Zealand’s strengths. Governments in the Gulf region are looking for agile companies that can design solutions to address major challenges like how the planet can feed another billion people, or how to use artificial intelligence to support decision making in response to emergency situations.  

There are a number of innovation hubs and accelerators in the region, particularly in the UAE, that help support companies to develop and customise their solution for the market. These provide great networking opportunities, and in NZTE’s experience, even if a company is unsuccessful in securing a contract in the Gulf, the connections made here can open doors in other markets around the world.  

  • Sustainable solutions  

Like New Zealand, many Middle Eastern countries are grappling with the challenge of growing and diversifying their economies while protecting the environment’s natural resources for future generations. New Zealand is well regarded in the region for being a country that is successfully addressing this challenge with policies and initiatives like fishing quotas, national parks and investment in research and development to grow a diverse economy.  

  • High-value food and beverage  

New Zealand’s strength in food production makes us a suitable trading partner for the Middle East. With only 1.5% of its land arable, and severe water scarcity, countries in the Gulf region import 90-95% of their food. Food and beverage make up the bulk of New Zealand’s trade with this region – a trend that is set to continue as the region’s demand for imported food is expected to reach $53 billion, up from $25 billion a decade ago. Kiwi companies with a strong story of provenance are in a good position to leverage their expertise in food production that doesn’t sacrifice nutrition or the environment.

  • Manufacturing and infrastructure  

Investments in infrastructure – everything from 5-star hotels to airports and sea ports – have long attracted expats to the Middle East. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world, combined with a global drive to reduce use of fossil fuels, countries in the Gulf region are keenly focused on diversifying their economies away from a reliance on oil and gas to ensure a more sustainable future.  

Given the rules around alcohol, what are the opportunities for NZ companies in this sector? Each country, as you’d expect, has different rules for alcohol. Opportunities for alcohol exports do exist, although bear in mind that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are dry states. With a large expatriate population and a significant tourism industry, the United Arab Emirates is a destination for international wine exports. In 2017 New Zealand exported $4.5 million worth of wine to the Emirates. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is a re-export hub and distributors re-export shipments into the surrounding region and beyond.  

What’s it like working with NZTE in the region? NZTE and its NZ Inc partners have a strong presence right across the Middle East, and into India and Africa. NZTE has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Tehran, Riyadh, New Delhi, Mumbai and a team based in the Dubai office covers the African continent. More broadly, NZ Inc agencies, including Immigration New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism New Zealand, the Ministry of Primary Industries and NZTE, employee 200 people across ten posts covering 75 countries. NZTE also has a strong network of private sector advisors and Honorary Consuls to support company growth in the region.

As a NZTE Focus customer, you’ll work with a customer manager who partners with you, and taps into our global team to help you achieve your international growth goals. You’ll receive priority support from NZTE, in New Zealand and around the world.  

Taking your business further internationally

Contact New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to find out more about growing your business in the Gulf region.

We have a single purpose: growing companies bigger, better, and faster internationally, for the good of New Zealand. With over 50 years of international experience, and a truly global network, we offer customised services and support to help ambitious businesses take on the world.