UAE to conclude six more Cepas in next three months, foreign trade minister says

Agreements with Pakistan, South Korea and Thailand are expected in the next three weeks, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi says

Thani Al Zeyoudi speaks at Economist Impact. Photo: Economist Impact
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The UAE is preparing to conclude Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with six more countries in the next three months to improve trade and investment flows.

The UAE is to finalise Cepas with Pakistan, South Korea and Thailand in the next three weeks, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said on Tuesday during a keynote speech to the Global Trade and Supply Chain Summit in Dubai, organised by The Economist.

These will be followed by agreements with Costa Rica, Chile and Vietnam.

“These next-generation deals are cementing bilateral relationships with key economies, securing supply chains and promoting investments,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said, referring to the Cepa programme that the UAE launched in 2022.

“In the next 50 years, foreign trade will remain at the forefront as we seek to secure sustainable and long-term growth.”

The UAE and Serbia have also launched negotiations for a Cepa deal as relations grow, the Ministry of Economy said on Monday.

The Emirates, which is working towards signing 26 Cepas, has already concluded agreements with India, Israel, Turkey, Indonesia, Cambodia and Georgia. The first four Cepas are in effect.

The Arab world's second biggest economy is seeking to expand trade with partners as it pursues its target of Dh4 trillion ($1.09 trillion) in foreign trade by 2031.

“The UAE is a committed advocate of a multilateral trading system, which is the lifeblood of the global economy,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“It is critical that world trade remains accessible and equitable for all.”

In recent years, the global trade sector has experienced threats to the efficiency, reliability and continuity of the supply chain from complex climate change, protectionism and the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

The international trade system has faced major disruptions, while confronting a “tidal wave” of the new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“We must all be better equipped for these challenges and this is the message we'd like to talk to with business leaders around the world,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

The 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which will be hosted by Abu Dhabi next year, will be an opportunity to focus on four main priorities, the minister said.

  1. Increasing the participation of the Global South in international trade so that the system “works for everyone”.
  2. Strengthening the WTO's rules-making and process mechanism.
  3. Addressing “market-distorting subsidies” to protect the interests of all nations.
  4. Developing policies to enable digital trade and create opportunities.

“As we look to the trade landscape today and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed in the last three years, it is clear we cannot accept the status quo,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“Trade is too important to too many nations to allow disruptions and divisions, but equally, we cannot look to others to deliver the solutions.

“We must work together to shape the trading system to be fit for the 21st century, and the UAE is ready to play our part to deliver meaningful change.”

Updated: September 19, 2023, 9:16 AM