The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has set ambitious goals to significantly boost trade and investments with the Philippines, aiming for a fivefold increase within three to five years following the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), a free trade agreement between Manila and Abu Dhabi.
During a recent meeting between Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the visiting Minister of State of Foreign Trade of the UAE, and officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), discussions centered on finalizing the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the CEPA—a crucial step in the early stages of this free trade agreement (FTA).
Philippines Department of Trade and Industry Philippines Undersecretary Allan Gepty, who serves as the lead negotiator for FTAs, conveyed that formal negotiations for the CEPA would commence after the TOR is signed.
In an interview at the UAE-Philippines Business Forum in Taguig City, Al Zeyoudi and DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual shared their aspirations for signing the TOR during the upcoming visit of the Philippine delegation to Dubai for the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) led by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
Al Zeyoudi emphasized the goal of achieving a fivefold increase in trade and investment between the UAE and the Philippines within three to five years, highlighting that the success of these agreements is crucial for fostering opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), traders, investors, and industries in both nations.
The Minister of State noted that in 2022, non-oil trade between the UAE and the Philippines more than doubled, reaching USD 1.9 billion. He anticipated further growth, estimating a potential 20 percent increase in non-oil trade for the entire year of 2023.
Expressing eagerness to see more Filipino products in the UAE market through the CEPA, Al Zeyoudi outlined the comprehensive nature of the agreement, encompassing goods and services, investments, SMEs, digitalisation, customs, governance, sustainability, and more.
He emphasized an open-minded approach to discussions, stating, “We are open to discuss anything that is going to bring added value to both nations.”
Anticipating a swift pace, Al Zeyoudi compared the formal FTA talks to the efficiency demonstrated by the UAE in its dealings with other countries, aiming for a conclusion within six months after the signing of the TOR.