Dubai has become a hub for international trade and commerce in the Middle East. Its strategic location, business-friendly environment, and world-class infrastructure make it ideal for trading operations. This guide covers everything you need to know about trading in Dubai, from start-up requirements and procedures to taxation and other key considerations.

Starting a Trading Business in Dubai

Several steps are involved in setting up a trading company in Dubai:

Choose a business structure:-

The most common structures for trading companies in Dubai are:

  •     Sole Proprietorship

  •     Limited Liability Company (LLC)

  •     Branch of a Foreign Company

Select a business activity:-

Everyday trading activities in Dubai include:

  •     Importing/exporting goods

  •     Trading in specific products (vehicles, electronics etc.)

  •     Provide trade-related services (shipping, logistics, etc.)

Obtain a trade license:-

You'll need to get the relevant trade license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) based on your selected activity.

Get office space:-

Whether you rent a store, office space, warehouse, etc., ensure it meets the regulatory requirements.

Obtain visas:-

Apply for proper visas/permits for yourself and any workers or partners. Dubai employers must sponsor employees' residence visas.

Register with relevant authorities:-

Register with the DED, municipality, tax authority and chambers of commerce.

By following all regulatory steps, you can start operations smoothly in Dubai.

Critical Aspects for Trading Companies in Dubai:-

Running a successful trading business in Dubai requires paying attention to these vital aspects:


Under UAE laws, trading companies in Dubai pay only 5% VAT. There is no corporate or personal income tax. Customs duties may apply to the import/export of goods.

Business Regulations:-

Ensure full compliance with all DED, municipality and free zone regulations applicable to your trading activity. This includes renewing licenses on time.

Import/Export Regulations:-

To import or export goods, you must follow all documentation and declaration requirements as per Dubai Customs and other relevant entities. Special approvals may be needed for certain goods.

Currency Considerations:-

Pricing goods and finalising deals in UAE Dirhams (AED) or US Dollars in Dubai is preferable. However, you need central bank approval to repatriate hard currency from the UAE.

Managing Local Relationships:-

Building solid relationships with Emirati sponsors, partners, or agents is critical for smooth trading operations in Dubai's business landscape.


While Dubai offers excellent opportunities for trading businesses due to its strategic advantages, you need in-depth planning regarding legal structures, facilities, taxation and relationships. By partnering with reliable local entities from the outset and adopting best practices for regional markets, your organization can gain solid foundations for trading success in Dubai.

Key Takeaways

  •     Dubai offers global connectivity, tax-friendly regulations, and diverse trade flows ideal for trading companies.

  •     Choose an appropriate legal structure aligned with your objectives and activity.

  •     Obtain all necessary trade licenses and permits before commencing operations.

  •     Understand the currency, tax and import/export regulations for seamless compliance.

  •     Building local relationships and networks is vital for trading effectiveness in Dubai.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary products traded in Dubai?

Gold, jewellery, vehicle parts, heavy machinery, construction materials, petroleum products, apparel and textiles are the top commodities traded in Dubai.

What free zones allow trading activities in Dubai?

Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ), Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), and Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) are among the free zones that permit trading companies.

What banking options are available when starting a trading company in Dubai?

Local and international banks, such as Emirates NBD, Mashreq Bank, HSBC, and Commercial Bank of Dubai, offer corporate banking suitable for Dubai trading companies.

Is local sponsorship mandatory for trading companies in Dubai?

Foreign investors must secure sponsorship from a local Emirati partner to set up onshore trading companies in Dubai.

Can trading companies get loans in Dubai?

UAE banks provide business loans, overdraft facilities and other credit options for eligible trading companies under appropriate regulatory norms.

Can foreigners fully own a trading company in Dubai?

Foreigners can own up to 100% of trading companies in Dubai's many free zones. A local majority ownership is mandatory for onshore companies.

What are the logistics and warehousing options for trading companies in Dubai?

Dubai offers extensive, integrated cargo and warehousing infrastructure through Port Rashid, Jebel Ali Port and Al Maktoum International Airport. Facilities at free zones are also available.

How do you obtain a trade license to operate in Dubai?

The Department of Economic Development (DED) issues trade licenses based on submitted applications that meet all requirements around ownership, capital, activities, facilities, and regulatory compliance.

What are the central tax liabilities when importing goods into Dubai?

Importing goods into Dubai entails 5% VAT and up to 5% customs duties, depending on product type and classification. However, no corporate or personal income taxes apply in Dubai.

Can I sell internationally from a trading company based in Dubai?

Yes, Dubai offers superb global connectivity due to its advanced ports and airport infrastructure. This enables trading firms to conveniently engage in cross-border trade around the world.

How do free zones support trading companies in Dubai?

Free zones foster trading through dedicated marketplaces, purpose-built facilities like warehouses, 100% foreign ownership allowances, relaxed legal frameworks and 0% tax rates.

What documents do I need to export goods from Dubai legally?

Key export documents include certificates of origin, commercial invoices, packing lists, bills of lading/air waybills, customs declarations, export permits and insurance certificates where applicable.

How do I transfer money overseas from my Dubai trading company?

Legally registered trading firms in Dubai can repatriate funds through authorized UAE banks after submitting the required documentation as per central bank regulations.

Can I open business bank accounts abroad as a Dubai trading company?

Yes, trading companies registered in Dubai can legally operate foreign currency and overseas bank accounts to facilitate international trade transactions and payments.

What dispute resolution options exist for trading companies in Dubai?

Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts offer alternative dispute resolution avenues for trading firms through arbitration and mediation.

Do customs duties apply when re-exporting goods from Dubai?

Generally, no—goods imported into Dubai for re-export or trading purposes may be exempt from customs duties under specific rules and conditions stipulated by Dubai Customs.

Here is the continuation of the draft article on trading in Dubai:

What risks should I cover with the right insurance when trading in Dubai?

Key coverages for Dubai trading companies include marine cargo insurance, trade credit insurance, business interruption insurance, office contents insurance, trade license insurance and directors and officers liability insurance.

How do I check current customs regulations and duties applicable to my imported goods?

Dubai Customs facilitates easy online access to comprehensive tariff lists, exemption databases, and custom duty calculators, which help determine the current rates levied on specific imported products.

What are the options for recruiting staff for my trading company in Dubai?

Options include:

  • Hiring local talent.

  • Identifying candidates regionally or internationally.

  • Leveraging government programs like Tawteen that support Emiratization goals.

  • Sponsoring skilled overseas workers for Dubai work visas.

How can my Dubai trading company source quality suppliers internationally?

Conducting supplier due diligence for aspects like pricing, lead times and compliance records through customer referrals, trade publications, commercial databases and trade fair participation.

What incentives are available when importing goods via air or shipping to Dubai?

Dubai Customs offers privileged Customs Declarant status, expedited clearance, lower bank guarantees and dedicated account managers for accredited logistics companies and high-volume importers.

How do I resolve commercial disputes or payment defaults with trading partners?

Options include negotiated settlements, requesting legal help from business councils, issuing commercial escalations through local courts, or filing cases in specialist judicial authorities like the DIFC Courts.

What characteristics distinguish ethical and sustainable companies when trading in Dubai?

These include fair labour practices, corporate governance transparency, environmental impact monitoring, responsible supply chain oversight and commitment to avoiding illegal wildlife trade flows.

Which regulatory compliance practices should Dubai trading companies prioritize?

Key aspects include license renewals, timely tax and customs duty payments, immigration compliance, corporate minutes and filings, AML/CFT policies, data protection and regular audits or inspections.

What digital business models are boosting productivity for modern trading companies?

Adopting e-commerce channels, accepting digital payments, deploying ERP platforms, using customer data analytics tools and leveraging technologies like blockchain, AI and Internet of Things (IoT) for trading operations.

What are the latest emerging trade sectors that newcomers can tap into?

New trade flows center around the Gulf region's booming food industry, demand for green economy products, growth in the health and wellness segment, expanding technology ecosystem, and rising homegrown petrochemical capacities.