Israel, UAE Sign Free Trade Deal, Israel's First With Arab Country

The bilateral pact will remove tariffs on food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicine, Israel's Economy Ministry says

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The economy ministers of Israel and the UAE, Orna Barbivai and Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri, at a signing ceremony for a free trade deal between their countries, in Dubai, on Tuesday.
The economy ministers of Israel and the UAE, Orna Barbivai and Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri, at a signing ceremony for a free trade deal between their countries, in Dubai, on Tuesday.Credit: WAM/AFP

Israel signed a free trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, its first big trade accord with an Arab state and a move aimed at boosting trade between the two Middle East nations.

The pact was signed by Israel's Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai and her counterpart, UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, in Dubai after months of negotiations.

The trade deal is Israel's first with an Arab country.

"Done," Israel's Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek said on Twitter, replying to another tweet he posted earlier saying "the UAE and Israel will sign FTA in the next hour."

President of the UAE-Israel Business Council Dorian Barak said the trade agreement defined tax rates, imports and intellectual property, which would encourage more Israeli companies to set up offices in the UAE, particularly in Dubai. The council predicts there will be almost 1,000 Israeli companies working in or through the UAE by the end of the year doing business with South Asia, the Far East and Middle East.

"The domestic market doesn't represent the entirety of the opportunity. The opportunity is really setting up in Dubai, as many companies have, in order to target the broader region," Barak told Reuters by phone.

For oil-rich UAE, the deal with Israel is its second bilateral free trade agreement after signing a similar accord with India in February. It is in bilateral trade talks with several other countries, including Indonesia and South Korea.

Ahead of the signing, Israel's Economy Ministry had said the accord would remove tariffs on food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicine.

"Together we will remove barriers and promote comprehensive trade and new technologies, which will form a solid foundation for our common path, will contribute to the well-being of citizens and make it easier to do business," Israel's Economy Minister Barbivai said on Monday.

The agreement has been signed amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The UAE Foreign Ministry on Monday condemned the storming of the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem by "extremist settlers under the protection of Israeli forces."

The Foreign Ministry, in the written statement, also asked "Israeli authorities to take responsibility for reducing escalation and ending all attacks and practices that lead to the continuation of tensions while underscoring the need to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further instability."

The same day invited media were told they could no longer attend the signing. No reason was given for the sudden change.

Barbivai told Israeli radio on Tuesday she had heard "nothing out of the ordinary" about the Al-Aqsa violence so far during her visit to the UAE.

The UAE has been aggressively pursuing these deals in a bid to strengthen its economy following the hit it took from the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE and Israel formally established relations in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords that also included Bahrain and Morocco. The deal broke with decades of Arab policy that had called for a Palestinian state before ties with Israel.

Bahrain and Morocco also recognized Israel in the same year.

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