Israel signs with the UAE the first free trade agreement with an Arab country

Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday signed a comprehensive and “pioneering” free trade agreement aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two countries as trade reached an estimated value of $2.5 billion. In the less than two years since the US-brokered Abraham Accords were signed.

Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai was in Dubai on Tuesday morning to sign the agreement alongside her Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, who said last year that the UAE hopes to make more than $1 trillion from trade with Israel over the next day. decade.

The terms of the deal were finalized last month in Jerusalem with UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi.

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In January, the Israeli cabinet approved the creation of an Israeli-UAE fund for research and development to support technology projects involving companies from both countries.

The FTA covers regulations, customs, services, e-commerce, and protection of intellectual property rights, among other things.

About 96 percent of the products traded between the two countries, including food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicines, will be duty-free, according to the agreement. While some products will immediately benefit from this exemption, for others the process will be gradual.

Speaking from Dubai on Tuesday, Barbivai praised the “historic significance” of the economic relations agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, noting that it is the first comprehensive free trade agreement to be signed. A country with an Arab majority.

Barbivai explained that the agreement was a “pioneering initiative” for Israel and the UAE, an initiative that will serve as an “inspiration for the region” and will lead to “unlimited opportunities for economic enhancement for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs.” the two countries.

“Together, we will remove barriers and promote integrated trade and new technologies, which will build a solid foundation for our common path that will benefit citizens and facilitate trade. This is a comprehensive free trade agreement, the first ever free trade agreement with an Arab country — and we are entering into it now, shortly after establishing our relations diplomacy,” Barbivai said on Monday, before the signing ceremony. .

The Israeli ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek, wrote: Congrats! – “Congratulations” in Arabic – a Twitter post accompanied by a photo showing Emirati and Israeli officials holding documents at a signing ceremony in Dubai.

For his part, the Emirati ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Al-Khaja, described the deal as an “unprecedented achievement”, considering that it would benefit both countries. He also thanked Ohad Cohen, head of the Israeli Foreign Trade Department, for spearheading this initiative.

“Israel and the UAE have just signed a free trade agreement – the first agreement of this size to be signed between Israel and an Arab country,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote after the deal was signed in Dubai.

Al Marri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, said Tuesday that the agreement “sets a new paradigm in the region” and that it “will accelerate economic growth and enhance shared confidence that the only way to build a sustainable economy in a complex world is to do it together.”

He added that the FTA “can prove to countries and governments around the world that cooperation and dialogue are the best way to turn challenges into opportunities.”

Al Zeyoudi also hailed a “new era of trade and investment” in the region, adding that “the comprehensive agreement signed between our two countries will accelerate economic activities” while creating opportunities for research and development “as well as new investments in agricultural technologies, renewable energies and other advanced technologies – sectors”. Which is extremely important to our two countries.”

Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai, left, signs a free trade agreement with UAE Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri in Dubai, the first such agreement Israel has signed with an Arab country, May 31, 2022. Taylor, Tape Studios)

“Over the past 18 months, we have demonstrated what can be achieved when conflicts and disagreements are set aside. We are now ready to build on the laid foundations and foster a new era of opportunity and entrepreneurship for our citizens; we are ready to establish a relationship based on mutual respect, tolerance, open and honest discourse and unity of thought. The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade said, “I have no doubt that this agreement will usher in a new era of booming economy in our region.”

Al-Zeyoudi reported in Davos last week that the existing trade between the Jewish state and the UAE is estimated at about $2.5 billion since the Ibrahim Accords were signed in 2020. He added that more than $1 billion was registered during the first quarter of 2022.

He noted that in 2023-2024, trade between the two countries is expected to reach five billion dollars, according to forecasts.

The United Arab Emirates and Israel signed a normalization agreement in 2020 under the Abraham Accords, which were brokered by the United States. Then Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco followed suit.

Discussions on the FTA began in November 2021 and were completed in less than six months.

The Jewish state has already concluded free trade agreements with other countries and blocs, including with the United States, the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

In February, Israel signed a trade agreement with Rabat on the design of special industrial zones in Morocco.

Relations between the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia have also improved in recent months. According to a report broadcast by Channel 12 last week, a senior Israeli official visited the kingdom recently, amid growing rumors that Jerusalem and Riyadh are willing to take small steps to normalize relations between the two countries.

The two sides reportedly discussed the security interests of the two countries, which have become more aligned in recent years in the face of the common threat posed by Iran.

Furthermore, an article was published in globes Dozens of Israeli entrepreneurs and tech entrepreneurs recently visited Saudi Arabia to hold discussions about Saudi investments in Israeli companies and investment funds, he said.

These alleged interactions between the two countries, which have no official connection, come at a time when the United States is encouraging its allies to cooperate more in the region, and they occurred before a trip to the Middle East by US President Joe Biden, who will do so. Visit Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom abstained from signing the Ibrahim Accords in 2020, as the United States and Israel had hoped, but Riyadh would have given, in this context, the green light for Bahrain to join this adventure of normalization with the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia has a great influence on Bahrain.

In March, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that Israel could be a “potential ally” of Riyadh.

Lazar Berman and Times of Israel and AFP staff contributed to this article.

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