Manila, Philippines – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has set a target to increase its trade and investments with the Philippines by five times within the next three to five years, following the enactment of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). This ambitious goal comes as the two nations move closer to finalizing their free trade agreement.
According to Philippines News Agency, who is also the lead negotiator for the Philippines for free trade agreements, formal negotiations on the CEPA will begin after the Terms of Reference (TOR) are signed. This announcement was made following a meeting between Gepty and Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the visiting Minister of State of Foreign Trade of the UAE, who were finalizing the TOR, marking the scoping stage of the FTA.
DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual and Al Zeyoudi, speaking on the sidelines of the UAE-Philippines Business Forum in Taguig City, expressed their intention to sign the TOR during the Philippine delegation’s upcoming visit to Dubai for the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28). The Philippine delegation to this significant event will be led by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
Dr. Al Zeyoudi emphasized the ambitious nature of the CEPA, stating that failing to achieve a fivefold increase in trade and investment figures within the stipulated time frame would indicate underperformance. He highlighted that such agreements are crucial for creating opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), traders, investors, and industries. Al Zeyoudi also noted that non-oil trade between the UAE and the Philippines had more than doubled to USD1.9 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow by 20 percent in 2023.
The CEPA, which is the Philippines’ first FTA in the Middle East, aims to be comprehensive, covering various areas including goods and services, investments, SMEs, digitalization, customs, governance, and sustainability. Al Zeyoudi expressed a willingness to discuss any aspects that would add value to both nations.
He also shared his expectation for the formal FTA talks to progress quickly, mirroring the UAE’s experience with other countries where negotiations typically take around six months. He indicated a desire to maintain this pace and conclude the talks within six months following the signing of the TOR.