The UAE and South Korea have signed a preliminary deal to strengthen the partnerships between small and medium enterprises in the two countries and develop entrepreneurship.
Both nations will promote a conducive business ecosystem and foster co-operation that will support SMEs and expand relations between their private sectors, the UAE Ministry of Economy said in a statement on Thursday.
“The UAE attaches great importance to the development of the SMEs sector as one of the main pillars of the country's new economic model and its strategic plans for the future in line with the principles and goals of the 50," Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said, referring to the Emirates' Projects of the 50 campaign.
"The development of international partnerships is a major focus area of the UAE’s efforts in this regard, and South Korea is a major partner for the UAE in our efforts to develop entrepreneurship."
The UAE and South Korea have taken major steps to boost trade and bilateral relations. In October, the two nations agreed to begin talks on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that would expand co-operation in priority areas from climate change mitigation to advanced technology, thereby creating new investment and trade opportunities.
The UAE is South Korea's largest trading partner in the Arab world, with bilateral trade valued at $9.4 billion in 2020 and non-oil trade growing to more than $2bn in the first six months of 2021, state news agency Wam reported.
The agreement signed on Thursday aims to boost the economic partnership between the two countries to a minimum of $20bn in the next three to five years, up from about $9bn currently. Negotiations are expected to be finalised by the end of this year.
In an official visit to the UAE in January, South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed economic, trade and cultural co-operation between the two countries with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in a move to deepen their strategic partnership.
Also that month, Etihad Credit Insurance, the UAE’s federal export credit agency, signed an agreement with Korea Trade Insurance Corporation to boost investment in the development of sustainable green energy.
Under the latest agreement, the UAE and South Korea will jointly design flexible partnership programmes during the next phase, through which Emirati and Korean SMEs will be able to enter each other's markets in an easier and more effective manner.
They will also co-operate in the exchange of knowledge regarding the development of programmes, policies and legislation related to the entrepreneurship sector in the two countries.
The deal will drive the economic participation of entrepreneurs and SMEs and help the development of partnerships, especially in health technology and smart agriculture, Mr Al Falasi said.
"It will also drive the growth of trade exchanges and stimulate the flow of quality investments in the fields of innovation, research and development," he said.
The two countries also agreed to develop a joint platform to support SMEs with the aim of enabling them to identify promising investment opportunities in both markets, as well as establishing mechanisms to support and exchange market research and information.
The entrepreneurship and SME sector accounts for 99 per cent of the companies in South Korea, roughly the same number that makes up the UAE's private sector, the ministry said.
The agreement was signed by Abdullah Al Saleh, undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy, and Kim Ki-mun, chairman of the Korea Federation of SMEs (KBIZ), in the presence of Mr Al Falasi.