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UAE and NZ in talks to build on non-oil trade

A declaration of intent to begin Cepa talks was signed by UAE minister of state for foreign trade Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi and New Zealand trade minister Todd McClay Wam
A declaration of intent to begin Cepa talks was signed by Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, third from the left, and Todd McClay, second from the left
  • Non-oil trade worth $765m last year
  • ‘Exciting opportunities’ for nations
  • NZ in free-trade talks with GCC

The UAE has agreed to start negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (Cepa) with New Zealand as part of plans to boost the Gulf state’s foreign trade to AED4 trillion ($1.1 trillion) by 2031. 

A joint declaration of intent confirming the agreement has been signed by Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi and Todd McClay, the countries’ foreign trade ministers.

Bilateral non-oil trade reached $765 million in 2023, an increase of more than 15 percent on 2019, the year before the Covid pandemic struck.



The UAE is New Zealand’s largest trade partner in the Middle East. Exports hit $613 million in the year to September 2023, up 17 percent from the year before, according to New Zealand foreign ministry data.

Officials said the agreement will seek to remove or reduce tariffs and trade barriers in key sectors such as agriculture, renewable energy, logistics, education and healthcare.

Al Zeyoudi said a Cepa deal “will open up a range of exciting opportunities” for both nations with the UAE offering direct access to new markets for New Zealand’s exports, particularly in food and agricultural products.

McClay described the start of negotiations as an “exciting step towards cementing a significant trade and economic relationship”. 

“The UAE is a key export destination and hub in the Gulf region, and there are significant opportunities to enhance cooperation across a range of areas including agriculture and sustainable energy,” McClay said.

Foreign trade remains the cornerstone of the UAE’s economic agenda. In 2023 the UAE’s non-oil trade in goods reached an all-time high of $701 billion.

New Zealand is also in talks for a free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional body representing the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

A free-trade deal with the European Union came into effect on May 1 after New Zealand ratified it in March.

UAE-New Zealand trade

  • Emirates resumed flights of its A380 superjumbo to Christchurch last year after a hiatus of more than three years. Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, is the smallest city in Emirates’ A380 network.
  • The UAE signed a partnership arrangement with Fiji and New Zealand in December to develop the second phase of the Lakaro Renewable Energy Project in Fiji. The UAE’s contribution of $1.5 million to the project on the islands of Lakeba, Kadevu and Rotuma aims to add a battery bank and replace diesel generators with a renewable energy system.
  • Abu Dhabi Investment Authority sold its stake in New Zealand property group Precinct Properties to the trans-Tasman investment bank Jarden Partners for $147 million in February.
  • GCC economies make up New Zealand’s eighth-largest trade partner, with exports led by dairy products, meat, cereal and fruit and nuts.

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