UAE and Serbia launch Cepa negotiations

In the first half of this year, bilateral non-oil trade reached $57.6m, surpassing the total recorded for the whole of 2020

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and Tomislav Momirovic, Serbia’s Minister of Internal and Foreign Trade, at the first round of talks in Dubai. Photo: Ministry of Economy
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The UAE and Serbia have launched negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement to boost bilateral trade and investment flows.

The first round of talks between senior officials took place in Dubai, the Ministry of Economy said on Monday.

The move comes amid growing relations between the two nations.

In the first half of 2023, bilateral non-oil trade reached $57.6 million, surpassing the total recorded for the whole of 2020, the ministry said.

The UAE is now the third-largest market for Serbian exports in the Middle East, with foreign direct investment focused on sectors such as agriculture, food security, real estate, infrastructure and logistics.

“Serbia is an emerging economy in an increasingly important part of Europe, with strategic links to many vital markets in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, while the UAE can serve as Serbia's gateway to markets in the Middle East, Asia and Africa,” said Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

“The Cepa will not only improve access to these global supply chains but enable our private sectors to build long-term partnerships and explore new investment opportunities.”

The UAE 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, Cambodia and Georgia, each of which are designed to boost economic activity and secure vital supply chains. The first four agreements have already come into effect.

The UAE is seeking to expand trade with partners around the world as it pursues its target of Dh4 trillion ($1.09 trillion) in foreign trade by 2031.

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.

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

The negotiations for a Cepa with Serbia come after a series of high-level meetings, including the visit of President Sheikh Mohammed to the Serbian capital Belgrade in June.

The visit resulted in several agreements designed to expand co-operation in sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture, food security, technology and artificial intelligence.

A Cepa between the UAE and Serbia will seek to improve bilateral non-oil trade by reducing or eliminating customs duties, removing unnecessary barriers to trade, protecting intellectual property rights, supporting small and medium-sized companies, and enabling mutual investment flows, the ministry said.

It also aims to consolidate co-operation in the sectors of aviation, agriculture, construction, contracting, real estate and defence.

“Serbia is committed to supporting and stimulating the private sector and attracting new foreign investments to the country,” said Tomislav Momirovic, Serbia’s Minister of Internal and Foreign Trade.

“A [Cepa] with the UAE will encourage these trends and create many opportunities for both sides.”

Updated: September 18, 2023, 6:04 PM