UAE and New Zealand start preliminary talks over Cepa trade deal

The two nations already have an active trade relationship, with non-oil trade growing 7% to $805m in 2022

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade and Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s Minister of Trade. Photo: Ministry of Economy
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The UAE and New Zealand have started preliminary discussions to advance trade relations that include forging a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Discussions were held during a meeting in Dubai between Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s Minister of Trade and Export Growth, the UAE Ministry of Economy said in a statement on Friday.

The two nations already have an active trade relationship, with non-oil trade reaching $805 million in 2022, a 7 per cent increase from 2021 and 23 per cent over 2020.

As of 2022, the UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, is New Zealand’s top trading partner from the region. The UAE accounts for 2.5 per cent of New Zealand's total foreign trade.

“New Zealand is a valued partner for the UAE in the Oceania region, and a nation that shares our firm belief in open, rules-based trade as a catalyst for sustainable economic growth," Dr Al Zeyoudi said in the statement.

"As we seek to expand our network of trading partners, exploring a potential Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement demonstrates our commitment to delivering new markets and new opportunities for our private sector."

The UAE, which aims to boost trade and economic relations with countries around the globe, is working towards signing 26 Cepas as it seeks to attract more investment and diversify its economy.

The Emirates has signed Cepas with India, Israel, Turkey, Indonesia and Cambodia, each of which are designed to boost economic activity and secure vital supply chains.

Boosting trade is one of the central planks of the UAE’s economic transformation agenda. The UAE aims to sign the deals as it seeks to broaden its investment horizon globally and boost its foreign trade to Dh4 trillion ($1.09 trillion) by 2031.

Overall, Cepas are expected to add about 2.6 per cent to the UAE's economy by 2030, Dr Al Zeyoudi has said previously.

The benefits of Cepas include enhanced market access, lower or eliminated tariff rules, simpler customs procedures, clear and transparent rules, and rule-based competition – all of which will further support the UAE's growing economic momentum.

The UAE's non-oil foreign trade hit a record Dh1.24 trillion in the first half of 2023, up 14.4 per cent year-on-year, it was announced on Wednesday.

The country's non-oil exports during the period exceeded the annual level recorded five years ago, after trade with its top 10 most important trading partners increased 22 per cent in the first six months of this year.

The UAE is also "on course" to achieve its non-oil trade target of Dh4 trillion by 2031 amid policies such as the signing of Cepas, Dr Al Zeyoudi said on Thursday.

“These exploratory discussions are an important first step towards a trade agreement with the UAE, one of our key export destinations in the region, and a valued bilateral partner for New Zealand," Mr O'Connor said.

The latest discussions between the UAE and New Zealand follow accelerated economic and trade efforts between the two nations.

In May, Reem Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Co-operation, led a UAE delegation to Wellington aimed at boosting economic, trade and cultural relations.

Ms Al Hashemy also met figures from the food, sustainability and innovation sectors, emphasising the key role of the private sector in supporting economic co-operation between the two countries.

In 2022, the UAE and New Zealand agreed to work together in seven priority economic sectors through to 2024, focusing on trade and mutual investments, advanced technology, innovative industries, agriculture and food security, renewable power, logistics, entrepreneurship and tourism.

The UAE and New Zealand have also signed several preliminary agreements, including one between the UAE’s Etihad Credit Export Insurance and the New Zealand Export Credit Agency on securing export credit, and another on food security between the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"We can now look forward to establishing the parameters of a future-facing, resilient and mutually beneficial deal," Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

Updated: September 01, 2023, 8:16 AM