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UAE and New Zealand plan Cepa to build non-oil trade

Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s minister of trade and export growth and Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade Wam
New Zealand minister Damien O’Connor and the UAE's Dr Thani bin Ahmed al Zeyoudi have said healthcare is a central pillar for trade between the two nations
  • Healthcare, agriculture and energy central pillars
  • Non-oil trade worth $805m in 2022
  • UAE on mission to sign more Cepa deals

When Auckland-based startup Exsurgo joined the Hub71 technology park in Abu Dhabi it was a potential sign of things to come in the UAE-New Zealand trade relationship.

Exsurgo has raised $10.5 million and aims to provide non-pharmaceutical treatments for neurological conditions through the use of neuroscience and data analytics.

Last week, two months after Exsurgo’s arrival in Abu Dhabi, New Zealand and the UAE announced plans to pursue a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (Cepa), in which healthcare will play a major role.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade, and Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s minister of trade and export growth, revealed that the two nations are keen to explore deeper economic collaboration.

Healthcare, agriculture and renewable energy will be at the heart of discussions, al Zeyoudi said at a meeting, as part of a visit to the UAE by a delegation of New Zealand trade officials.

Both countries are aiming to build on non-oil trade, which reached $805 million in 2022, a growth of 7 percent compared with 2021 and 23 percent more than 2020. 

The UAE was New Zealand’s leading trading partner in the Arab world last year, accounting for 2.5 percent of its total foreign trade.

In confirming Cepa talks, O’Connor said that the exploratory discussions were “an important first step” towards a trade agreement with the UAE.

Al Zeyoudi added that New Zealand “shares our firm belief in open, rules-based trade as a catalyst for sustainable economic growth.”

The talks follow the visit to New Zealand by Reem bint Ibrahim al Hashemy, UAE minister of state for international cooperation, and the signing of a number of bilateral agreements in May.

UAE minister of state for international cooperation Reem bint Ibrahim al Hashemy(right), met with Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand minister of foreign affairsWam
UAE minister Reem bint Ibrahim al Hashemy (right), met with New Zealand’s Nanaia Mahuta in May to enchance cooperation between the countries

The UAE is on a mission to sign numerous Cepa deals as it seeks to push non-oil foreign trade beyond AED4 trillion by the end of the decade. Five agreements with India, Israel, Turkey, Indonesia and Cambodia have been signed to date.

Separately, however, GCC secretary-general Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi revealed last week that he is committed to progressing “remaining aspects” to conclude a free trade deal between the wider GCC bloc and New Zealand.

GCC economies make up New Zealand’s eighth-largest trade partner, according to government figures. Latest available figures show New Zealand exports to GCC economies in 2021 were $1.1 billion and imports $1.7 billion.

New Zealand’s exports to the GCC were led by dairy products, meat, cereal and fruit and nuts, while imports were dominated by minerals, fuels, oils and fertilisers.

Tourism is also important. Emirates resumed flights of its A380 superjumbo to Christchurch earlier this year after a hiatus of more than three years. 

Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, is the smallest city in Emirates’ A380 network, but airline officials have described the demand for tickets as “phenomenal”. The expat population of New Zealand in the UAE stands at about 3,500.

The return of the A380 is also good news for South Island producers. Emirates freight airline SkyCargo supports the export of 15 to 18 tonnes of goods a day. Exported products include cherries, prime New Zealand lamb and premium seafood.

On Monday, the airline also announced a renewal of its longstanding partnership with Emirates Team New Zealand, the reigning champions of sailing trophy the America’s Cup.

Last week, Qatar Airways also re-introduced a direct flight from Doha to Auckland, on New Zealand’s North Island. It operates seven times a week, and is the world’s second-longest non-stop flight, after Singapore Airlines’ New York to Singapore route.