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UAE and Philippines Finalize Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

A ceremony in Dubai marked the start of preliminary talks for a CEPA, and Al Zeyoudi and Pascual signed a joint statement.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, alongside Alfredo E. Pascual, Secretary of Trade and Industry for the Philippines, solidified the framework for negotiations toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), marking a significant milestone in fostering trade and investment collaboration between the two nations.

Launching Negotiations and Significance:

A ceremony held in Dubai commemorated the commencement of initial discussions for a CEPA, where Al Zeyoudi and Pascual endorsed a joint statement. 

This announcement is the latest achievement within the UAE’s CEPA initiative, which aims to broaden and diversify its non-oil foreign trade relations.

The prospective UAE-Philippines CEPA aims to fortify the existing bilateral relations, which is evident in the substantial growth of non-oil trade between the countries. 

Trade volume surged by 19.4% in the first half of 2023, reaching $500 million, demonstrating a significant increase from the previous year. 

The cumulative non-oil trade for 2022 soared to $1.9 billion, indicating a twofold rise over the preceding two years.

Trade Dynamics and Investment Flows:

The UAE is the Philippines’ second-largest trade partner in the Middle East and Africa, contributing approximately 30% of the Philippines’ total trade. 

Notably, investment flows between the two countries have seen positive growth, with the Philippines’ Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reaching $31.1 million by the close of 2020 and the UAE’s direct investment in the Philippines amounting to $11 million in 2021.

Potential Impact of the CEPA:

Beyond the anticipated reduction in tariffs and trade barriers, the UAE-Philippines CEPA is anticipated to catalyze increased capital flows by facilitating new investment opportunities and joint ventures. 

Furthermore, it aims to establish a platform for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to engage in collaborative ventures.

Vision and Expectations:

Al Zeyoudi emphasized the strategic importance of the Philippines as a high-growth economy within a rapidly expanding region, underscoring the shared goal of sustainable economic growth through strengthened economic ties. Pascual echoed this sentiment, highlighting this economic cooperation’s potential for mutual prosperity and sustainable development.

The progress made toward the UAE-Philippines CEPA follows a significant state visit by senior UAE government officials to Manila in September. 

This visit aimed to deepen economic ties and foster private-sector collaboration in sectors of mutual interest.

Expanding CEPA Partnerships:

The negotiations between the UAE and the Philippines build upon the UAE’s growing portfolio of CEPA partnerships, which currently encompasses agreements with seven countries spanning the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe—encompassing a significant segment of the global population.

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