3 Min Read
* Total trade up 7.6 pct to $362 billion
* Imports growth outpaces exports
* Trade with Iran rises 4 pct after 2012 plunge
* Tourist numbers up 10 pct, property deals +53 pct
By Martin Dokoupil
DUBAI, March 9 (Reuters) - Dubai's non-oil trade expanded 7.6 percent last year, slowing from 13 percent growth in 2012, but the emirate's trade with Iran stabilised despite U.S. economic sanctions, according to Dubai customs data released on Sunday.
The non-oil foreign trade of Dubai, one of seven members of the United Arab Emirates, rose to 1.329 trillion dirhams ($362 billion) in 2013. The emirate exports small amounts of oil and imports natural gas.
Dubai's non-oil exports and re-exports climbed 4.0 percent to 518 billion dirhams, while imports surged 10 percent to 811 billion dirhams.
The emirate saw its economy pick up strongly last year as tens of billions of dollars worth of new real estate projects were announced following a 2008-2010 property market crash.
Tourist numbers rose 10 percent to 11 million people last year, while new trade licences recorded an increase of 12 percent, the government media office said on Sunday. The total value of real estate transactions jumped 53 percent to above 236 billion dirhams.
Buoyed by a renewed inflow of money from abroad, Dubai's residential real estate prices climbed more than 20 percent last year and analysts estimate they may return to pre-crisis levels next year.
Dubai has traditionally been a major trading partner of Iran but that link has been hurt since late 2011, when Washington imposed banking sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme that forced Dubai to cut back business sharply.
Merchandise trade between Dubai and Iran plunged 31 percent to 25 billion dirhams in 2012. But last year it rebounded slightly to about 26 billion dirhams, representing 2 percent of Dubai's non-oil trade, Dubai customs told Reuters.
Although the banking sanctions remain in place, Iranian traders say their activities have become easier since President Hassan Rouhani took office last August, reducing geopolitical tensions and helping to stabilise the rial currency.
"Dubai's bilateral trade with Iran goes in line with international obligations," the Dubai customs authority said in an emailed reply to Reuters questions.
"It is a normal trade covering consumer goods, namely foodstuffs, car spare parts, electronics and carpets, given the geographical proximity between the two sides."
The vast majority of trade between Iran and Gulf Arab states is routed through Dubai. Wooden boats, known as dhows, continue to carry some goods across the Gulf.