Lower oil prices are set to dampen export volumes from the UAE in the next few years, but exports will rebound in the long term, according to new data from the UK’s HSBC.

Boosted by a 40 per cent rise in oil prices in 2011 to an average of $111 a barrel, UAE exports grew by more than 30 per cent in 2011. Although export volumes will remain strong, the rate of growth will fall to 14 per cent in 2012 and slow further in the coming years as oil prices level out.

Between 2013 and 2015, exports will rise by between 4 and 6 per cent a year, according to HSBC’s latest global connections report, which tracks trade flows across the world.

The UAE’s exports will rebound by 2016, with growth averaging 7 to 8 per cent a year between 2016 and 2020.

“[There will be a] falling off in the short term before a return to higher growth rates in the medium term, but imports will grow at a rapid rate as the UAE looks to diversify its economy away from natural resources,” says Tim Reid, regional head of commercial banking for the Middle East and North Africa at HSBC.

Import growth in the country will slow slightly in 2012, falling from 20 per cent last year to an anticipated 15 per cent this year.

India was the UAE’s top export destination in 2011 and the country is predicted to remain its key market by 2030. The other four major export markets are Singapore, China, Australia and Hong Kong, according to HSBC data, which surveyed 23 economies.

UAE exports to Asia will see stronger growth than trade flows with other regions in the medium term, averaging 8 per cent a year during 2021-30.

Of the 23 major economies analysed by HSBC, the UAE is the 10th fastest growing country in terms of merchandise exports.

Other Middle Eastern countries are expecting to see medium-term growth in exports. Saudi Arabia saw exports rise by 45 per cent in 2011 and growth for 2012 is estimated to reach 8 per cent. Export growth will further slow between 2013 and 2014, before picking up again in subsequent years, reports HSBC.

Riyadh’s exports to Asia are to grow by 9 per cent every year between 2021 and 2030, while exports to Sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 7 per cent a year during the same period. Exports to Europe, Australia and New Zealand will grow at a far slower pace of 4 per cent a year.

As a net importer of oil, Egypt will benefit from the expected lower energy costs in the coming years, which will help promote export growth of 12 per cent a year during 2013-15. HSBC forecasts that Egypt will average export growth rates of 8 per cent a year between 2020 and 2030. India will remain Egypt’s main trading partner but Saudi Arabia is set to be the country’s third most important export partner after the US.

Egypt will see exports of goods to Sub-Saharan Africa grow at 8 per cent a year during 2021-30, and is expecting to see exports to Europe grow at 6 per cent a year. Globally, trade volumes will grow by 5 per cent in 2013 and continue to rise to between 6 and 7 per cent between 2014 and 2016.

HSBC’s report cites the growth in Asian exports and increasing trade flows between emerging markets as a driving force behind the increase in global trade. The shift of developed countries towards increasing exports into emerging economies is also redefining global trade patterns.