PH, UAE to start talks on economic partnership

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  • The Philippines and the United Arab Emirates will start discussions on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement next week
  • The first round of negotiations are to be held in Dubai from May 6 to 8
  • The Philippines and UAE look to finalize the pact this year, in time for their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations

The Philippines and the United Arab Emirates will start discussions on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) next week, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.

The negotiations are targeted for completion this year, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Trade Undersecretary Allan Gepty told local media that the first round of negotiations for the CEPA will be held in Dubai from May 6 to 8.

Gepty said, “If we can conclude that within the year, then that would be a good milestone in our diplomatic relations, particularly economic relations.”

The CEPA would go beyond providing market access and cover such areas as digital trade, e-commerce, government procurement, and movement of natural persons in relation to services, Gepty added.

Initially, the two sides will focus on the text of the free trade agreement (FTA) within established terms of reference (TOR).

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi signed the TOR in December last year.

Gepty said there are several alignments when it comes to the investment and trade policy directions of the two countries, which may be brought up during the negotiations.

“That’s why I’m confident that I think we can conclude the negotiations within the year,” he said.

The Philippines seeks to secure a preferential arrangement in the Emirates for all products of interest, such as industrial and agricultural products.

At present, helicopter and aerospace parts are the Philippines’ top exports to the UAE, which is considered a strong player in the aerospace industry.

Gepty said, “More than these parts, we are also eyeing services.”

He said the CEPA is a most important FTA, given the large number of Filipino professionals and businesses in the Emirates, which is a preferred destination for overseas Filipino workers seeking employment in the Middle East because of its relatively liberal lifestyle.

Definitely, the FTA will be a “big help” for both sides as far as a stable business environment is concerned, he said.

Philippine Statistics Authority data shows total trade between the two countries reached $1.88 billion last year. Philippine exports to the UAE were at $341.97 million, while imports totaled $1.54 billion.

READ: PH, UAE take first step to FTA talks