In a significant stride for global trade, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea announced the culmination of negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) this Saturday. This pivotal accord underscores the robust and burgeoning economic partnership between the two nations, set against a backdrop of sustained growth in non-oil bilateral trade, which touched $3 billion in the first half of 2023 alone — a figure that maintains the previous year's momentum and marks a 21% increase from 2021.
The trade landscape between the UAE and South Korea is not just confined to traditional sectors; it extends into strategic collaborations in advanced industries. A testament to this is the successful commissioning of the Barakah Power Plant in Abu Dhabi, a $20 billion project realized in collaboration with the Korea Electric Power Corporation and an ensemble of Korean enterprises. This nuclear facility, initiated in April 2023, stands as a monumental achievement in the UAE's pursuit of energy diversification and sustainability.
"The initiation of CEPA discussions with South Korea in 2021 mirrored our commitment to fostering dynamic economic alliances beyond our regional periphery," stated Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE's Minister of Foreign Trade, in a conversation with Reuters. This sentiment gains further relevance in light of South Korea's contemporaneous revival of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) dialogues with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a collective comprising the UAE and five other Gulf states.
Highlighting the multifaceted benefits of the CEPA, South Korea's trade ministry emphasized, "This strategic partnership is not just about numbers. With nearly 178 Korean enterprises operating in the UAE as of 2022, the CEPA is poised to usher in a new era of stability and opportunity for Korean businesses, not only within the UAE but also as a gateway to the broader Middle East and North African markets."
The UAE's portfolio of CEPAs is both diverse and expansive, encompassing agreements with nations ranging from recent diplomatic allies like Israel and Turkey to economic powerhouses such as India and Indonesia. This approach is a cornerstone of the UAE's economic strategy, geared towards attenuating oil dependency and fostering a more diversified, resilient economy.
In response to queries regarding the potential influence of regional geopolitics, specifically the Israel-Gaza conflict, on its trade relationship with Israel, the UAE reaffirmed its steadfast principle of segregating political considerations from economic imperatives. This stance resonates with the International Trade Council's ethos of promoting trade as a vehicle for peace, prosperity, and mutual understanding among nations, regardless of political climates.
The consummation of the CEPA between the UAE and South Korea is more than a bilateral agreement; it's a signal to the global community — affirming that in an era of complexity and change, international collaboration remains the key to shared prosperity and sustainable economic progress.