Board of Directors Welcomes New Leadership and Looks Ahead to 2021


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December 8, 2020

His Excellency Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, Deputy Group CEO and CEO – Alternative Investments and Infrastructure at Mubadala Investment Company, chaired the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s virtual Board Meeting, during which the Council welcomed new leadership from Honeywell and PepsiCo. Guest speakers at this annual meeting included Ambassador John Rakolta, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates; Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, U.A.E. Ambassador to the United States; and His Excellency Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Group CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), and U.A.E. Special Envoy for Climate Change.

His Excellency Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, Deputy Group CEO and CEO – Alternative Investments and Infrastructure at Mubadala Investment Company, and co-Chairman of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council

His Excellency Waleed Al Muhairi’s term as co-Chairman of the Board and His Excellency Sultan Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World’s term as the Board’s U.A.E. co-Vice Chairman were renewed for two more years. The Board also approved the nominations of two new U.S. co-Vice Chairmen: Shane Tedjarati, President for Global High Growth Regions at Honeywell, and Eugene Willemsen, Chief Executive Officer for Africa, Middle East, and South Asia at PepsiCo. The Council thanks Marc Allen, former President of Boeing International, and Marillyn Hewson, Executive Chairman of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for their service to the Council as co-Chairman and co-Vice Chairman respectively.

From L to R: Mohammed Al Muallem, CEO and Managing Director, DP World, U.A.E. Region; Norman Gilsdorf, President, High Growth Regions, Middle East, Russia, Turkey, Central Asia, and Customs Union, Honeywell; and Eugene Willemsen, Chief Executive Officer, Africa, Middle East, and South Asia, PepsiCo

H.E. Waleed Al Muhairi spoke about how the world has changed since the Council’s 2019 Board Meeting and the need to “invest time and energy to make things better.” He highlighted U.S. and U.A.E. joint efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, lauding the efforts of healthcare workers, the pandemic response plans of Emirates and Etihad, the collaboration between Strata and Honeywell to produce N95 masks, the rollout of Abbott tests, the development of a Pfizer vaccine, and the creation of the “Hope Consortium” to provide pandemic assistance and vaccine distribution. H.E. Waleed also spoke about the U.A.E.’s unwavering commitment to the United States and bilateral security and defense cooperation, singling out the efforts of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon to help provide for regional security. Finally, he spoke about the positive role of the U.S. in the signing of the Abraham Accords and the opportunities this brings for U.S. and U.A.E. partners as peace begins to unfold in the region.

Mohammed Al Muallem, CEO and Managing Director of DP World, delivered remarks on behalf of Business Council co-Vice Chairman His Excellency Sultan Bin Sulayem. Mr. Al Muallem elaborated on DP World’s response to the pandemic, particularly in the area of food security. He laid out the company’s growth plans and “futuristic outlook,” noting its collaboration with Hyperloop. Moreover, he spoke about the company’s quickness to engage with Israeli partners in the wake of the Abraham Accords, partnering with Haifa Port. Al Muallem underscored the importance of the United States to the global logistics conglomerate.

The Council’s two new American co-Vice Chairs also addressed the Board. On behalf of Shane Tedjarati, Norm Gilsdorf, a President for High Growth Regions at Honeywell, elaborated on Honeywell’s partnership with Strata to bring N95 masks to the U.A.E. in just 30 days, which he chalked up to the strength of the U.S.-U.A.E. relationship, Honeywell’s own partnership with Strata and Mubadala, and the capabilities of its U.A.E partners. Meanwhile, Eugene Willemsen stressed the importance of the U.A.E. to PepsiCo, which has made the Emirates the home for its Africa, Middle East, and South Asia businesses.

From L to R: Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, U.A.E. Ambassador to the United States, and Ambassador John Rakolta, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates

In discussion with U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council President Danny Sebright, U.S. Ambassador to the U.A.E. John Rakolta, Jr. and U.A.E. Ambassador to the United States His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba reviewed key high notes in the bilateral relationship during 2020. Ambassador Rakolta lauded U.A.E. Covid-19 assistance to the U.S., praised the handover of the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai and the launch of the bilateral Strategic Dialogue, and described the historic importance of the signing of the Abraham Accords. Moreover, Ambassador Al Otaiba commended the tremendous adaptability and resilience that the world has demonstrated in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, expressing confidence that we will come out of this situation “fundamentally stronger,” just like after the 2009 financial crisis.
Looking ahead to 2021, Ambassador Al Otaiba highlighted new opportunities for bilateral collaboration in the areas of high technology and life sciences. Ambassador Rakolta stressed the opportunities for “Middle America” to seize the U.A.E. market and the associated need to hold up the U.A.E. to “all of America” as a “beacon for how peace and prosperity can change the world going forward.”

Ambassador Al Otaiba emphasized his view that the bilateral relationship will continue to flourish in the year ahead, so long as it is based on “facts” and “not emotions” given its truly strategic nature. Ambassador Rakolta acknowledged that China could become a bigger issue in the relationship, given the blurring of lines in the defense and technology spaces. Ambassador Al Otaiba concluded the discussion by speaking of his hopes for the Abraham Accords in terms of what these accords mean for greater “human to human understanding and connection.”

His Excellency Sultan Al Jaber, Cabinet Member and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Group CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), and U.A.E. Special Envoy for Climate Change

Discussion with His Excellency Sultan Al Jaber focused on his recent appointment as head of the newly created U.A.E. Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology. H.E. Dr. Al Jaber remarked that U.A.E. leadership created this new ministry with specific goals in mind in terms of stimulating economic value and creating job opportunities for youth. He also spoke about opportunities for like-minded partners who are willing to transfer their knowledge, establish a physical presence in the U.A.E., and make the U.A.E. a base for business in the wider region.

H.E. Dr. Al Jaber also discussed ADNOC’s journey in becoming a “model for how a modern national oil company should look like in future” by focusing on efficiency, resilience, value creation, and “future-proofing” the company’s business. He also spoke of ADNOC’s expansion of partnerships beyond traditional oil and gas players to “top-tier investors,” such as U.S. firms KKR, BlackRock, and Apollo.

Finally, H.E. Dr. Al Jaber spoke of his recent appointment as Special Envoy for Climate Change, which hearkened back to his experiences at Mubadala, where he helped create Masdar and bring the International Renewable Energy Agency to Abu Dhabi. H.E. Dr. Al Jaber noted ADNOC’s leadership in implementing carbon capture technology and its more recent pursuit of blue and grey hydrogen. He said he looks forward to advocating for “progressive and practical” approaches to energy transition during November’s COP26 Summit and working with U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry in this regard. Please click here for a video and Council Update about H.E. Dr. Sultan’s remarks.

Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow – Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution

Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, subsequently shared her insights regarding U.S. President Elect Joe Biden’s possible foreign policy priorities. Ms. Cofman Wittes, who was previously Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and has advised the Biden campaign, asserted that President-elect Biden was perhaps the “most prepared” foreign policy president in U.S. history. Characterizing his approach to diplomacy, she noted his proclivity toward “partnerships to solve problems” and his corresponding inclination to build personal relationships, deepen alliances such as NATO, and leverage international treaties such as COP26. She believes there are opportunities for collaboration between the U.S. and U.A.E. given that the U.A.E. is “nimble,” “responsive,” and already a regional and even global leader on issues such as climate change, future energy, Covid relief, humanitarian development, and co-existence in the Middle East region.

The former Deputy Assistant Secretary noted that the emphasis on competition with China will likely continue under a Biden Presidency, given that this is “one area of strong bipartisan agreement” in a very divided Washington. Moreover, she noted that President-elect Biden may be inclined to adopt a foreign policy that “works for the middle class.”

While acknowledging that overall the Middle East region is “lower on the list” of U.S. foreign policy priorities than perhaps it was in the last couple decades, Ms. Cofman Wittes commented that the U.S. will need to address the challenge of Iran, its nuclear program, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its support for regional proxies. She remarked that President-elect Biden has learned that if one does not deal with security problems, “they land on your doorstep.” She noted President-elect Biden’s desire to return to the JCPOA if Iran returns to compliance with the agreement’s provisions, which she called “a big if.”

Before the meeting concluded, the Board approved the Council’s 2021 activities and workplan, which will focus, among other things, on the U.A.E.’s Golden Jubilee and Expo 2020 Dubai. For more information about the Business Council’s work, please contact the Council’s Director of Communications, Mary Zuccarello, at