• Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

Evaluation: UAE measures up pace of solo trade bargains in regional financial race


May 25, 2023
  • UAE agrees four bilateral trade bargains, talks for a lot 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 bargains outdoors of the Saudi-headquartered regional Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as competitors with Riyadh intensifies for financial dominance in the oil-wealthy area.

Considering that 2021, the UAE has initiated a raft of trade, investment and cooperation bargains on it personal – referred to as Complete Financial Partnership Agreements (CEPAs) – bypassing the GCC, a customs union, popular marketplace and negotiating bloc.

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are each accelerating their post-oil economy plans to decrease their dependence on fossil fuels, but the UAE has very first mover benefit more than its larger neighbour as the Middle East’s current small business and tourism hub. Constructing on its current trade infrastructure, it now desires to develop into a worldwide provide chain leader.

The GCC has concurrently stepped up its game, holding new rounds of No cost Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with significant 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, stated the UAE’s unilateral trade push indicates some members are not necessarily satisfied with the way the GCC handles FTA negotiations.

“There is now growing competitors involving Saudi and UAE specially in financial terms. The UAE… desires to be a lot more absolutely free in terms of its negotiations of FTAs and it desires to be ahead of everyone,” Baabood stated.

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 popular marketplace… but the mixture of size, vision and excellent matters, and Riyadh has all of the above and a lot more.”


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

From preceding 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 bargains in an typical of six months.

Handful 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 preceding Saudi moves have also been observed as direct challenges to the UAE, such as telling foreign firms in 2021 to set up regional headquarters in the kingdom or danger losing government contracts.

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

For the UAE, which has its principal safety ties with the West, Asia is a unique concentrate of the CEPA method. 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, one particular of the UAE’s most significant trading partners, decreased or eliminated tariffs on a lot 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 stated.

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

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


The UAE has a lot more than ten CEPAs in the operates, but some significant 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 stated it had a combined GDP of $1.six trillion.

“Negotiating a GCC-wide FTA could make it less complicated…to operate involving jurisdictions inside the GCC and could facilitate broader geopolitical aims of encouraging higher financial integration inside the Middle East,” Freddie Neve of Asia Home stated.

Relations involving Saudi Arabia, below 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 becoming finalised in 2024.

South Korea was one particular of the very first nations to launch CEPA talks. 3 months later having said that it restarted dormant GCC FTA talks.

“We ask the person nations to pick 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, stated Britain was committed to a GCC FTA with “the greatest financial and strategic worth for each sides”.

Zeyoudi stated when CEPA agreements need to be constant with the GCC customs union, person nations can go bilateral if terms are much less favourable than with the GCC bloc.

The GCC declined to comment.

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

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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