Abu Dhabi, US ink security data exchange deal

Abu Dhabi and the US has signed an agreement to exchange security information in a bid to fight terrorism and enhance border security in both countries, it was announced.

The agreement was signed in Washington DC between the Department of Finance’s General Directorate of Customs - Abu Dhabi and the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The deal will see both organisations exchange training and technical assistance and expertise when dealing with customs inspections, but also includes “the exchange of security information, as is permitted by laws, policies and agreements in force at both countries, within an atmosphere of confidentiality to apply laws, fight terrorism and achieve general security,” a statement issued by the Department of Finance (DoF) said.

Saeed Ahmed Al Muhairi, director general of Abu Dhabi Customs said: “This agreement falls in line with both parties’ commitments to protect their borders from any risks, whereby we seek to strengthen these two countries’ positions as safe destinations for travel and business. Hence, I would like to mention the great interest provided by the Department of Finance, in strengthening cooperative efforts with strategic partners at home and abroad.

"In fact, this enables the realisation of both parties’ common interests which then would contribute in supporting customs work, the process of border security and in facilitating the flow of legitimate trade across borders.”

As part of the agreement, Abu Dhabi customs officials carried out field visits to different US CBP centres in different states in order to learn how best to secure and protect customs posts.

The agreement is part of ongoing moves to enhance relations between Abu Dhabi and the US. In May it was announced authorities are in talks regarding a plan to allow US customs pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Under the agreement, passengers flying from the UAE capital to any US city would be cleared by American customs and immigration officials before boarding their flight, speeding up the entry process and helping the US screen passengers who might be denied entry before flying to the country.

It is believed it is the first time a new destination has been approved for the service since Ireland in the 1980s. The US has operated customs pre-clearance in locations in Canada and some Caribbean islands since the 1950s and 1960s, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website.

While a large number of US senators, the Airlines for America union group, the Global Business Travel Association and others have criticised the decision, a spokeswoman for US Customs and Border Protection said the pre-clearance agreement would improve security, while also making legitimate travel and commerce more efficient by speeding up the entry process in the US.

“The Pre-clearance Agreement with the UAE will enhance our aviation security by allowing US security officials to screen passengers before they board flights bound for the United States,” the spokeswoman said.

It has not been announced when the service in Abu Dhabi will begin. Abu Dhabi will reportedly pay 80 percent of the cost of setting up the service  and to have US customs and immigration officials based in the UAE.