UAE seeks 22 Cepas by 2031 as Ukraine trade talks start

The Emirates expects to conclude deals with Turkey and Colombia before end of this year, and wrap up agreements with Georgia, Cambodia, Kenya and Ukraine by first half of next year, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi says

A wheat field near Kyiv. The UAE said Ukraine, a major wheat producer, can support the country in its food security efforts. Reuters
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The UAE aims to conclude at least 22 Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (Cepa) by 2031, Minister of State for Foreign Trade Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi said, as the country started trade talks with Ukraine.

The Arab world’s second-largest economy aims to complete two Cepas before the end of this year and expects to wrap up another four before the end of the first half of 2023 to boost bilateral trade and investments, he told The National in Dubai on Monday.

“We have plans of signing 22 agreements either with [economic] blocs or with individual countries,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said on the sidelines of a deal-signing ceremony to mark the launch of Cepa negotiations with Ukraine.

“We don’t want to announce the details of it yet … [but] it is over a 10-year horizon [until 2031].”

The UAE Ministry of Economy expects to conclude Cepas with Turkey and Colombia before the end of this year. Plans are afoot to complete deals with Georgia, Cambodia, Kenya and Ukraine by the middle of next year.

The outlook of the second half of 2023, in terms of the number of agreements, will depend on various governments and their willingness to move the negotiations forward, Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

The UAE is increasing the pace of negotiations and will make announcements of further deals at the appropriate time, he said.

“What we are trying to do is that we are building a very strong case, we are showing to the world that the normal way of negotiations does not work [any more]. You have to do it quickly otherwise the economy is going to change,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

Negotiations with interested parties are well under way despite global macroeconomic headwinds, and the UAE continues to make progress on potential Cepas as “we are very hopeful” and “we are expecting growth in our economy next year”, Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

The launch of Cepa talks with Ukraine is part of the UAE’s next 50-year growth road map.

In September 2021, the Emirates announced plans to double the size of its economy to Dh3 trillion, from Dh1.4 trillion, by 2030.

These economic partnerships aim to develop closer trade and investment relations with key partners around the world.

The UAE is looking to eliminate or reduce tariffs, remove unnecessary trade barriers, increase market access and set up investment and trade joint-ventures with its partners.

The country signed a Cepa with Indonesia, the biggest South-East Asian economy, at the end of June, which will boost non-oil trade between the two countries to $10 billion in the next five years, from about $3 billion, the ministry said at the time.

The Emirates also signed a similar deal with Israel and India in May and February, respectively. The agreement with India is expected increase the size of bilateral trade to $100 billion in five years, from $60 billion currently.

Cepas with India, Israel and Indonesia are expected to expand the UAE’s economy by 2.6 per cent by 2030, Dr Al Zeyoudi said in July.

The UAE has also launched Cepa talks with South Korea that could boost trade investments between the two countries to about $20 billion in the next three to five years. It is also engaged in negotiations with the Philippines.

The potential deal with Ukraine will focus on key sectors, as well as start-ups, Dr Al Zeyoudi said on Monday.

“Ukraine will not only be a welcome addition … but the first European nation with whom we are negotiating, confirming the breadth of our free-trade ambitions,” he said during the signing ceremony.

In 2021, non-oil trade between the UAE and Ukraine stood at $904.4 million, having increased by 28.4 per cent on 2020. Total UAE investment in Ukraine surpassed $243 million while Ukrainian investment in the UAE was $84 million at the end of 2020.

The Cepa negotiations build on the more than $3 billion in trade and investment pledges made during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the UAE in February 2021.

“We are confident that a UAE-Ukraine Cepa will, once concluded, play an important role in kick-starting the Ukrainian economy — and mobilise the kind of investment that can help rebuild vital infrastructure,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

The UAE remains committed to be an “active and constructive partner” as Ukraine seeks to embark on a new and peaceful chapter in its history.

Possible areas of collaboration and opportunity, once the Cepa is concluded, include heavy industry, aviation, logistics, space and information technology.

“Importantly, as one of the world’s foremost producers of wheat and barley, Ukraine can be a vital partner in our food security efforts,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

Yulia Svyrydenko, First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Economy, said concluding the Cepa between Ukraine and the Emirates would “unlock the full potential of our co-operation in trade and investment, helping our business communities to grow and take advantage of the new opportunities”.

“Ukraine is known for its role as a global food security guarantor and a growing IT powerhouse. That makes our economies complementary, and we look forward to working together on promoting trade, the digital economy, as well as facilitating our investment co-operation,” Ms Svyrydenko said.

Updated: December 05, 2022, 1:09 PM