Last year, the UAE's combined merchandise and services trade reached $1.258 trillion (Dh4.61 trillion), nearly matching the previous year's figures, driven by the services sector, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Merchandise exports declined by 5% to $488 billion, placing the UAE 14th globally, while imports increased by 7% to $449 billion, making it the 16th largest importer worldwide. The UAE's exports and imports represented 2.1% and 1.9% of the global share, respectively.

Merchandise imports decreased in most economies, partly due to lower prices for commodities like oil and natural gas, which saw a 63% average price drop in 2023. All major economies experienced a decline except for a few large energy exporters, including the UAE, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, which saw increases of 7%, 10%, and 11% respectively, as stated in the WTO's annual report.

The UAE has signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) with several countries including India, Georgia, South Korea, and Israel, significantly boosting trade and commercial services. The decline in merchandise trade was counterbalanced by growth in the services sector, with the government actively promoting the country as a services-based economy. To this end, the UAE has been attracting top talent globally by offering long-term residency permits like the Golden Visa and Silver Visa to various professionals, scientists, and outstanding students.

In commercial services, the UAE ranked 13th globally with exports rising 8% to $165 billion. Imports of commercial services also increased by 13% to $108 billion, ranking the UAE 18th among global importers. The country was 20th globally in digitally delivered services, reaching $48 billion in 2023, up from $46 billion the previous year.

The UAE and other Gulf countries saw a decline in merchandise exports due to falling commodity prices, particularly for oil and gas. Globally, the US dollar value of world merchandise trade dropped by 5% in 2023 to $24.01 trillion, but this was largely offset by a 9% increase in commercial services trade to $7.54 trillion. Looking ahead, the WTO forecasts that world merchandise trade volume is expected to grow by 2.6% in 2024 and 3.3% in 2025 as demand for traded goods recovers following a contraction in 2023.