DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates and South Korea on Thursday agreed to start talks on a bilateral trade deal that they hope will expand economic opportunities, including cooperation on technology and climate change .
The UAE, as part of a campaign to boost its economic clout, said last month it would seek broad economic deals covering trade and investment with eight countries: India, Britain , Turkey, South Korea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Israel and Kenya.
The agreement with South Korea, called the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), aims to be “mutually beneficial liberalization of trade in goods, services and investment,” according to a joint statement from the two countries.
“This will be our first free trade agreement with a country in the Middle East,” South Korean Trade Minister Yeo Han-Koo said, adding that the UAE is their biggest trading partner in the Middle East.
Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi said he expects negotiations to start within two months and hopes that an agreement will be finalized within a year.
Zeyoudi said he hopes half of CEPA’s eight agreements will be completed by the end of 2022.
Pressure from the UAE to expand economic ties comes after it was hit hard by the pandemic with its economy contracting last year, and as it faces increasing economic competition from Arabia Arabia.
“The UAE believes that in an uncertain and rapidly changing world, an open trading system and a continuous flow of goods, services and investments is the best guarantee for stable and sustainable growth,” Zeyoudi said.
The UAE and South Korea have stepped up their energy cooperation, Yeo said, citing the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi as an example, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO ).
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, written by Lisa Barrington, edited by Raissa Kasolowsky)