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UAE and Australia to hold Cepa talks

An Australian sheep farmer shears his flock Reuters
An Australian sheep farmer shears his flock. Meat is among Australia's biggest exports
  • Australia’s first Cepa in Middle East
  • Trade worth $4.5bn in 2022
  • Earlier free trade talks stalled

The UAE and Australia have agreed to hold talks on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement. Once concluded, the Cepa would be Australia’s first with a country in the Middle East and Africa.

The UAE is Australia’s biggest trade partner in the Middle East.

Bilateral non-oil trade between Australia and the UAE was worth $4.5 billion in 2022, up 28 percent compared with 2021 and almost double the total in 2020. 

Australia and the UAE commenced negotiations for a free trade agreement in 2005, which developed into negotiations for an Australia-GCC deal in 2007, but talks stalled in 2009.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE minister of state for foreign trade, described Australia as a “natural partner” and said the Cepa would bring particular opportunities in “logistics, food security, tourism, renewable energy and mining”.

Australia’s exports include aluminium oxide, meat, vehicle parts, and telecom equipment and parts, while agriculture, education and tourism are also key sectors.

More than 300 Australian businesses operate in the UAE, in sectors including construction, financial services, agricultural supplies and training services. 

Al Zeyoudi added that the Cepa would help to advance two-way investment into high growth sectors such as real estate, healthcare, technology and logistics.

Don Farrell, Australia’s minister for trade and tourism called the UAE “one of our most important trading and investment partners in the Middle East”.

The UAE launched its Cepa programme in 2021 with the aim of doubling non-oil foreign trade to AED4 trillion ($1.1 trillion) by 2031. To date, it has concluded deals with India, Indonesia and Turkey while talks have begun with many others.

In May Dubai Chambers opened a new international office in Sydney to support the overseas expansion plans of Dubai companies.

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