Israel signs first Arab free trade agreement with UAE

Israel has signed a free trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates, its first big trade accord with an Arab state and a move aimed at boosting trade between the two Middle Eastern nations.

The pact was signed in Dubai by Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry Orna Barbivai and her counterpart, UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri, on Tuesday after months of negotiations.

“Done,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek said on Twitter, replying to another tweet he posted earlier saying “the UAE and Israel will sign FTA in the next hour”.

President of the UAE-Israel Business Council Dorian Barak said the trade agreement defined tax rates, imports and intellectual property, which would encourage more Israeli companies to set up offices in the UAE, particularly in Dubai.

The Council predicts there will be almost 1,000 Israeli companies working in or through the UAE by the end of the year, doing business with South Asia, the Far East and the Middle East.

“The domestic market doesn’t represent the entirety of the opportunity. The opportunity is really setting up in Dubai, as many companies have, in order to target the broader region,” Barak said.

Ahead of the signing, Israel’s economy ministry had said the accord would remove tariffs on 96% of goods, including food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicine.

The UAE predicts that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, as the accord is known, would boost bilateral trade to more than $10bn a year within five years.

“Our agreement will accelerate growth, create jobs and lead to a new era of peace, stability, and prosperity across the region,” the Emirati trade minister, Thani al-Zeyoudi, said on Twitter.

Together we will remove barriers and promote comprehensive trade and new technologies, which will form a solid foundation for our common path, will contribute to the well-being of citizens and make it easier to do business,” Barbivai said on Monday.

ALJAZEERA