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Report: US Looks to Forge AI Partnerships With UAE

The White House reportedly wants U.S. artificial intelligence (AI) companies to form partnerships in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

By launching operations in the UAE, the U.S. could build an alliance that would give it an advantage over China in the race to develop new AI projects, sources told the Financial Times (FT) in a report published Sunday (April 21).

The report followed Microsoft’s recent announcement that it was investing $1.5 billion in G42, an AI company based in Abu Dhabi and led by Emirati royal Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed al-Nahyan. 

According to the report, sources familiar with the discussions said the deal became final after a series of meetings — brokered by the American government — between investors and companies from the UAE and American tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and OpenAI.

One source said that U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been closely involved in the talks. And during a visit to Washington last year, Sheikh Tahnoon told his counterparts that he wanted to build a framework after Abu Dhabi took a “strategic decision” to focus on U.S. tech, another source briefed on the UAE’s strategy told the FT.

“The UAE views data as the new oil,” the source said. “It realized that it had to find a new way to exist between the U.S. and China because of U.S. concerns about Chinese tech. They’ve since been having very productive conversations, with Raimondo in particular.” 

Because of the national security issues at play, approval of the deal between Microsoft and G42 took months of discussions with government officials on both sides, two sources close to the negotiations said.

The news is happening as countries in the Middle East are scrambling to establish themselves as global AI leaders. For example, Saudi Arabia recently established a $40 billion AI investment fund, the type of thing that — as PYMNTS wrote last month — underscores “AI’s potential to reshape industries and fuel economic expansion.” 

A PwC study estimates that by the end of the decade, the Middle East could capture 2% of AI’s total global benefits, or around $320 billion.

Successful AI development efforts could not only lead to a wave of local creativity and innovation such as new startups, and attracting generation of students to the field, but could spread the resulting prosperity across the region, countering local disbalances and democratizing the knowledge economy to attract the brightest minds,” geopolitical analyst Irina Tsukerman told PYMNTS in an interview.