UAE-India non-oil trade to top $50bn this year, Al Zeyoudi says

Emirates preparing for additional Cepas with Thailand and Vietnam

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, speaks at the Annual Investment Meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Victor Besa / The National
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Non-oil trade between the UAE and India is expected to exceed $50 billion this year, aiming to achieve their goal of reaching $100 billion by 2030 after signing a major economic pact.

In the first 11 months of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) between the two countries — between May 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023 — bilateral non-oil trade reached $45.5 billion, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, told the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

This was a 7 per cent increase from the same period a year ago, he added.

"We're going to exceed $50 billion for sure this year for non-oil trade and this means we're moving towards the right direction of $100 billion by 2030 ... we're going to push by all means to ensure that we hit the target even earlier," Dr Al Zeyoudi told The National on the sidelines of the AIM.

"You cannot judge an agreement within one year because of the geopolitics and the situation globally in terms of the movement of trade ... looking at the numbers, it shows we are outperforming in comparison to the rest of the world."

In the first three months this year, bilateral trade between the UAE and India reached $13.3 billion, up 24.7 per cent on the previous quarter and 5.4 per cent from the first quarter of last year, the minister said.

The UAE's non-oil exports to India in the first quarter climbed 33 per cent from the previous quarter, while re-exports from India rose 31.5 per cent.

Delegations from the UAE and India will hold their first meeting to review the Cepa "sometime next month" to evaluate the accomplishments so far and discuss ways to improve the deal, the minister said in an interview.

"I'm very optimistic that we're looking at a win-win situation because even the exports from India have been performing very well and they're happy with the growth they're having," Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

The UAE signed its first Cepa with India in February last year and it took effect on May 1 last year. The benefits of Cepa include enhanced market access, lower or eliminated tariff rules, simpler customs procedures, clear and transparent rules and rule-based competition.

At the imminent Cepa review meeting, the UAE will also reflect the interests of and requests from the private sector, Dr Al Zeyoudi said. This includes further elimination of tariffs for food companies, boosting gold trade with India and ensuring small and medium enterprises can capitalise on trade opportunities.

UAE's Cepa progress

The UAE is working towards signing 26 Cepas as it seeks to diversify its economy, Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, said in March.

The country, which has already signed Cepas with India, Israel, Indonesia and Turkey, and is close to confirming a deal with Thailand, Dr Al Zeyoudi added.

"We're launching the process with Thailand tomorrow and we're also launching with Vietnam, which is going to be in the next month," he said.

Meanwhile, the deal with Turkey will come into force "very soon", while agreements with Georgia and Cambodia will also be signed in the coming month, Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

"We're closing the negotiation with Ukraine, so that's going to be next," he said. "We're almost there with Kenya as well and I really hope that we're going to conclude it in the second quarter."

Updated: May 08, 2023, 4:05 PM