UAE and Cambodia start Cepa talks to boost trade and economic ties

Two countries intend to sign Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement within three to six months

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, with Cambodian Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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The UAE and Cambodia started Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) negotiations on Monday as the Emirates looks to double the size of its economy and push gross domestic product beyond Dh3 trillion ($817 billion) by 2030.

The countries aim to boost bilateral non-oil trade to $1bn in the next three to five years, officials announced at a joint press conference on Monday.

Trade between the two countries grew by 40 per cent in the first eight months of this year to $279 million, compared with the same period in 2021 and is expected to exceed $350m by the end of 2022, said Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

“Today and this week is going to be the first round of negotiations and based on that, we will evaluate how quickly we can move on,” Dr Al Zeyoudi told The National after the press conference on the Cepa negotiations.

“From the initial preparation, I think we can move quickly.”

Dr Al Zeyoudi expects the deal between the two countries to be finalised in “three to six months' time, maximum”.

The two countries will focus on infrastructure and logistics, tourism and hospitality, food security, energy and, in particular, renewables. Other sectors include banking, FinTech and marine services.

The latest talks follow similar trade co-operation agreements the UAE has concluded with other countries.

This year, the UAE signed Cepa deals with India, Indonesia and Israel, and is currently holding negotiations with Turkey, Georgia, Colombia and Cambodia.

The agreement with India, Asia’s third-largest economy, came into effect on May 1 while the deals with Indonesia and Israel will be effective from January 1, Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“Turkey is almost done, we are just doing the final touches and going to be announced soon,” he said, adding that good progress had been made in talks with Georgia.

Non-oil trade between the UAE and Indonesia is expected to jump to $10bn in the next five years from $3bn currently, while the deal with India is expected to boost non-oil trade between the two countries to $100bn in five years, from $60bn currently.

The trade and investment pact with Israel is expected to push the value of non-oil bilateral trade to more than $10bn within five years.

In April, the UAE and Turkey began talks on a deal that is expected to double bilateral trade from $13.7bn, the Ministry of Economy said at the time.

In addition to boosting investment, the Cepa agreement with Cambodia will provide "huge market access to our services sector, especially in the areas of our expertise”, Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

Small and medium enterprises and the UAE industry stand to benefit from the accord, he said.

Cambodia’s economy grew by 3 per cent last year and is expected to grow 5.1 per cent this year and 6.2 per cent next, the International Monetary Fund said.

Cambodia’s Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said he was bullish on trade growth prospects between the countries.

“Our country has a lot of natural resources and agriculture products that we can sell directly to the Middle East, especially the UAE,” he said.

The UAE can help Cambodia to accelerate its digital economy and also serve as a springboard for the South-East Asian country to boost its ties with countries in the wider Middle East and Africa, Mr Sorasak said.

Updated: October 24, 2022, 12:10 PM