Coinbase execs visit UAE to test potential of ‘strategic hub’ for international operations

Following United States-based crypto exchange Coinbase announcing the launch of its global derivatives platform, key executives at the firm are meeting with industry leaders and policymakers in the United Arab Emirates.

In a May 7 blog post, Coinbase said chief executive officer Brian Armstrong and some of the firm’s executive team planned to discuss the potential for the UAE “to be a strategic hub” for the crypto exchange. According to the company, it was working with regulators in the Abu Dhabi Global Market and Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority as part of efforts to potentially expand into the region.

“[The UAE is] exciting for us as a potential hub to build as well, an international hub for Coinbase that could serve not only in the Middle East but parts of Africa or other countries in Asia,” said Armstrong at the Dubai Fintech Summit on May 8. “I think the U.S. right now is a little bit behind in terms of regulatory clarity and some of the rhetoric from the top.”

On May 2, Coinbase announced the launch of the Coinbase International Exchange, a platform offering crypto derivatives trading. The launch came amid the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission potentially charging Coinbase with securities violations following the issuance of a Wells notice in March. Though Armstrong has sometimes been critical of regulatory clarity affecting digital assets in the United States, he told shareholders in a Q1 earnings callthat he had no intention of moving operations outside the country.

“The region is standing-out as a leader in the development of a web3 ecosystem, making it an attractive location to consider investing in,” said the Coinbase blog, referring to the UAE. “The vacuum created by other notable jurisdictions means that international counterparts, such as the UAE, are racing to fill the regulatory gap.”

Related: UAE free zone to explore Bitcoin payments for services, lawyer says

Before its SEC Wells notice, Coinbase officials, including Armstrong, had met with U.S. policymakers to discuss crypto regulations in the country. Chief legal officer Paul Grewal said the firm had meetings with SEC representatives “more than 30 times over nine months” as of March but largely did not receive feedback on its proposals.

The UAE has steadily opened up opportunities for crypto firms, seemingly to draw in capital and jobs. Dubai established a legal framework for cryptocurrencies and set up the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority in March 2022, taking advantage of the Emirate’s free-trade zones with separate rules and regulations.

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