Sat. May 27th, 2023
  • UAE agrees four bilateral trade offers, talks for much more
  • FTA negotiations with GCC can take years
  • Financial competitors heating up amongst Gulf states

DUBAI, May perhaps 25 (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates is increasingly pursuing bilateral trade offers outdoors of the Saudi-headquartered regional Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as competitors with Riyadh intensifies for financial dominance in the oil-wealthy area.

Considering the fact that 2021, the UAE has initiated a raft of trade, investment and cooperation offers on it personal – known as Complete Financial Partnership Agreements (CEPAs) – bypassing the GCC, a customs union, prevalent industry and negotiating bloc.

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are each accelerating their post-oil economy plans to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, but the UAE has initially mover benefit more than its larger neighbour as the Middle East’s current business enterprise and tourism hub. Creating on its current trade infrastructure, it now desires to grow to be a worldwide provide chain leader.

The GCC has concurrently stepped up its game, holding new rounds of Absolutely free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with main trading partners which includes China, South Korea, and post-Brexit Britain. The GCC Secretariat also appointed a lead trade negotiator in 2022.

Gulf affairs specialist at Waseda University, Abdullah Baabood, mentioned the UAE’s unilateral trade push indicates some members are not necessarily pleased with the way the GCC handles FTA negotiations.

“There is now escalating competitors amongst Saudi and UAE specially in financial terms. The UAE… desires to be much more absolutely free in terms of its negotiations of FTAs and it desires to be ahead of everyone,” Baabood mentioned.

The Saudi government, the UAE foreign ministry, and GCC officials did not respond to requests for comment.

When asked about competitors with the UAE, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih on Tuesday told a conference: “Inside the GCC we see ourselves as a prevalent industry… but the mixture of size, vision and high-quality matters, and Riyadh has all of the above and much more.”


Negotiating bilaterally, the UAE can advance its financial and political priorities quicker.

From prior political foes Israel and Turkey, to Asian giants India and Indonesia, the UAE has so far signed 4 CEPAs and says it negotiates traditionally laborious trade offers in an typical of six months.

Couple of GCC FTAs have been signed and negotiations, such as talks with China which started in 2004, can languish for years as the bloc navigates competing internal priorities and simmering political feuds.

Some prior Saudi moves have also been noticed as direct challenges to the UAE, such as telling foreign firms in 2021 to set up regional headquarters in the kingdom or threat losing government contracts.

In 2021, Riyadh unilaterally changed import guidelines from GCC nations to exclude goods produced in absolutely free zones or employing Israeli input from preferential tariff concessions, regardless of the customs union.

For the UAE, which has its key safety ties with the West, Asia is a specific concentrate of the CEPA technique. Talks with Malaysia and Thailand had been announced this month.

UAE non-oil foreign trade hit two.two trillion dirhams ($599 billion) in 2022, up 17% year-on-year, with re-exports up 21% more than 2021, and exports up more than 50% from pre-pandemic 2019, government information shows.

The CEPA with India, 1 of the UAE’s largest trading partners, lowered or eliminated tariffs on much more than 80% of solutions, and foresees trade hitting $one hundred billion inside 5 years.

Bilateral non-oil trade in the 11 months considering that the CEPA’s implementation in May perhaps 2022 was $45.five billion, up six.9% year on year, UAE Foreign Trade Minister Thani al-Zeyoudi has mentioned.

The UAE and India are really close to agreeing to the settlement of some non-oil commodity trade in rupees, two sources told Reuters.

Dubai-primarily based economist Nasser Saidi mentioned CEPAs could be a “stepping stone” into monetary markets, facilitating firm cross-listings, and cooperation in new sectors such as clean power. “They signal a choice to engage on a wider diplomatic front.”


The UAE has much more than ten CEPAs in the functions, but some main partners like China, Britain and South Korea choose FTA talks with the six-member GCC which has a population of 56 million and in 2021 mentioned it had a combined GDP of $1.six trillion.

“Negotiating a GCC-wide FTA could make it a lot easier…to operate amongst jurisdictions inside the GCC and could facilitate broader geopolitical aims of encouraging higher financial integration inside the Middle East,” Freddie Neve of Asia Property mentioned.

Relations amongst Saudi Arabia, beneath Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and China have strengthened in current years, providing new momentum to China-GCC FTA negotiations and bilateral investments.

Some analysts see a GCC-China FTA getting finalised in 2024.

South Korea was 1 of the initially nations to launch CEPA talks. 3 months later having said that it restarted dormant GCC FTA talks.

“We ask the person nations to opt for the track they are comfy negotiating in,” UAE minister Zeyoudi told Reuters.

There is regional precedent: Bahrain and Oman signed bilateral FTAs with the United States in 2006 and 2009.

The British Embassy in Dubai, having said that, mentioned Britain was committed to a GCC FTA with “the greatest financial and strategic worth for each sides”.

Zeyoudi mentioned although CEPA agreements must be constant with the GCC customs union, person nations can go bilateral if terms are significantly less favourable than with the GCC bloc.

The GCC declined to comment.

Reporting by Rachna Uppal and Lisa Barrington More reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

By Editor