The signing of the Abraham Accords last month at the White House was an unexpected success in a year of seemingly unending, unwanted surprises. The historic agreement established full diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and two of the Arab Gulf states — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. More Arab states are likely to follow suit. A parallel agreement with Saudi Arabia makes it possible for direct flights between Israel and its new Arab Gulf partners, creating opportunities for the free flow of people, commerce and capital to bind the region together in unprecedented ways.

A look inside what led to this week’s historic Middle East agreement

Perhaps unbeknownst to many Utahns, the Abraham Accords reinforce ongoing efforts that Utah business leaders are making to build new strategic partnerships between Utah and our friends in Israel and the Arab Gulf states. Over the past two years, a steady stream of senior business, government and religious leaders from Israel and the Arab Gulf states have visited Utah, resulting in many new partnerships that benefit Utah businesses and institutions. These frequent, high-level interactions have continued virtually despite challenges with traveling during the pandemic. A few examples include:

While the pandemic has disrupted plans for traditional diplomacy and business, Utah is primed to engage — virtually for now, but in-person once feasible — with these regions.  Moving forward, the Abraham Accords validate a continued effort to build ties between Utah businesses and institutions and the Middle East. Based on the progress thus far, we believe three sectors are primed for particular focus:

  • Biotech and life science. Utah and Israel boast robust biotech and life sciences industries. Each has succeeded with harnessing data for health care research that can provide global solutions. This can be expanded to include Arab partners forming a biotech bridge of innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration.
  • Aerospace and defense. Home to the Hill Air Force Base and Boeing, Utah is known worldwide as a hub for the aerospace industry. This recognition has opened doors and created strong partnerships in the security industry in both Israel and the Gulf States.
  • Innovation and investment. Dubbed “start-up nation,” Israel embodies entrepreneurship with innovation in its universities and private sector. The University of Utah has claimed the moniker “Startup U.” Bahrain and the U.A.E. are investing in cutting edge technology, creating a green city with plans to shrink its ecological footprint significantly by 2050.

The Abraham Accords specifically identified commerce as a tool to “inspire humankind, maximize human potential and bring nations closer together.” These are sentiments that are familiar to every Utahn. Consistent effort to build mutually beneficial relationships across cultures are at the core of Utah’s global engagement. 

We share much in common with both Israel and the Arab Gulf states, just as they share much in common with each other. Utah companies are well positioned to leverage this time of progress to forge stronger connections with both regions. 

Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. Miles Hansen is the president and CEO World Trade Center Utah and a former Director for Gulf Affairs at the White House.