UAE and South Korea complete talks for bilateral trade deal

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Dubai (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates and South Korea have concluded talks towards a bilateral trade deal, known as a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), the two countries said on Saturday.

Trade and investment ties between the Gulf state and South Korea have been steadily advancing; in the first half of 2023, bilateral non-oil trade reached $3 billion, similar to the same period last year, but up 21% over 2021, a statement said.

The Korea Electric Power Corporation and a consortium of Korean firms also constructed all four units of the $20 billion nuclear Barakah Power Plant in Abu Dhabi, which became operational in April this year, to help support the UAE’s domestic electricity needs.

South Korea was one of the first countries with which the Gulf state launched talks for a CEPA in 2021.

Three months later however, the Asian state revived dormant Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council bloc, of which the UAE is a member.

“We resumed talks with Korea earlier this year as we were both keen to conclude a deal and advance our respective economic agendas,” Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE minister of foreign trade, told Reuters, adding the GCC FTA talks remained ongoing.

“There were about 178 South Korean firms doing businesses in the UAE as of 2022, and the Korea-UAE CEPA would enhance stability of South Korean firms entering into the UAE, while it would also support South Korean firms’ activities in the Middle East and North Africa,” South Korea’s trade ministry said in a statement.

The UAE has so far signed several CEPAs including from previous political foes Israel and Turkey, to Asian giants India and Indonesia, as part of a strategy to diversify its economy from oil.

It has said it does not mix politics with trade, when asked whether the Israel-Gaza conflict would have an impact on the Gulf state’s trade deal with Israel.

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