When President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI) in the State of the Union Address, those of us at the U.S. Mission in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) realized that we were very well positioned to support the doubling of exports in the next five years and create two million jobs. Our trade with the UAE has already expanded six-fold in the past decade (to more than $12 billion in 2009), the UAE is our largest export market in the Middle East, and local businessmen are keen for more American products. My small, but very professional commercial team, has already been doing a lot of trade promotion and advocacy for U.S. businesses.
To help spread the word about commercial opportunities in the UAE, I led a mission back to the United States during the first week in May. Our first stop was Houston for the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), a big trade show that highlights advanced technology for the oil business. Before leaving Abu Dhabi, I hosted a reception for the delegation of 100 UAE businesspeople, including senior officials from the national oil company and the chamber of commerce. Once in Houston, our hosts at OTC gave the Emirati delegation a VIP tour, and we held a breakfast roundtable on opportunities in Abu Dhabi. We also attended a reception and dinner hosted by the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce at which I made remarks and received a special tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center. The tour emphasized the connections between technology used in space exploration and the oil business. We also had a busy schedule of meetings with American firms in the oil and health care sectors.
After Houston, I traveled with my commercial team to Kansas City to talk about the UAE's plans for building a railroad, an $8 billion project that American companies should be competitive since the United States has the world's most extensive and sophisticated network of freight trains. We held an industry roundtable, kindly hosted by the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation, and met separately with American companies interested in doing business in the UAE. One of the highlights of the Kansas City stop was a dinner hosted by key business leaders and the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City, where I was the keynote speaker.
Everywhere we went, people were surprised at how important the UAE has become as a market for American exports. I think we generated some interest in the UAE, and we stand ready to support American firms, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, that come to this dynamic and expanding market.