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Colombia signs trade agreement with UAE

Atlas News | 18 April 2024

Colombia signs trade agreement with UAE

By Trent Barr

The governments of Colombia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a free trade agreement on Thursday, Colombia’s first ever with an Arab nation. This agreement, known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership, was discussed and agreed upon virtually between President Gustavo Petro and Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s President.

Budding Relations:

The agreement comes after two years of negotiations between the UAE and Colombia, with President Petro drawing a connection to the Arab nation due to the countries’ shared coffee industries, an industry that is vital to Colombia’s economy.

“We pride ourselves on having the richest coffee in the world, so I hope that coffee reaches there and our flowers.” Petro told his UAE counterpart, “We can fill the desert with flowers; that’s a bit of the magic of the country of beauty. So, Mohamed Bin Zayed, I encourage you; I seduce you so that these possibilities can become reality.”

Petro further stated the nations’ shared history, telling the Sheik of Colombia’s Arab community in Maicao, a city situated on the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

“and that many people from the Arab world can come here to Colombia to discover even unknown roots like the Arab communities that maintain their school, their mosque, their language, and religion there in Maicao, also in the middle of a desert.” Petro told the Sheik.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of State for Foreign Trade of the UAE, voiced his pleasure with the agreement, telling those gathered that “our Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Colombia, the fourth-largest economy in South America, is an exciting step forward in our foreign trade agenda. It opens up opportunities in a vibrant and high-growth nation to our exporters and investors and provides an important bridge to the heart of South America.”

He added that the agreement “reflects the growing economic ties between our countries. Likewise, it opens opportunities to strengthen relations in priority sectors such as aviation, renewable energies, the environment, hydrogen, travel, and artificial intelligence, and we look forward to developing these areas of mutual benefit in the coming months and years. We are committed to open and rules-based trade, and this agreement will create a variety of opportunities for our private sector that will drive our respective growth agendas.”

Agricultural Exports:

A key portion of the agreement focused on the export of various agricultural products, including coffee and fruits; however, other key exports, such as gold, were also accounted for, with the total revenue of exports and imports reaching over $300 million USD, a number the Office of the President theorizes would surely increase due to the trade agreement.

Colombia’s President’s Office further stated that the nation exported non-mining goods worth $34.3 million USD to the UAE in 2023, with the government of the UAE importing an average of $19 billion USD annually for agricultural and food purposes. The Office further stated that when the agreement goes into effect, 85% of Colombian products imported by the UAE will do so without tariffs, further enlarging profits.

13% of Colombian products entering the United Arab Emirates will enter a tariff elimination schedule, a structured plan that sees the gradual reduction or elimination of tariffs on specific products for 5 years, such as sweet biscuits, waffles, medicines, ceramic products, machinery, and appliances.

UAE products will also benefit from the agreement, with 63% being imported into Colombia tariff-free, while the remaining 37% will have tariff elimination schedules of up to 12 years, with oils and sugar being the main focus.

While the UAE typically imports coffee and gold, Colombia has seen imports of plastic glass, lids, and caps for bottles and containers, centrifugal pumps, water filtration devices, and parts for electric transformers, among other key industrial parts.

A Desire to Move Away From Fossil Fuels:

Petro then expressed his desire to move Colombia away from the usage and exploitation of fossil fuels, telling his UAE counterpart that oil “will end its life as a commodity in the world economy,” before continuing, stating that “both countries (Colombia and the UAE) depend on oil until today—you have many more reserves than us—but it is the same fact; we have to transition.”

The trade agreement includes a number of chapters, which are comprised of guaranteed access to markets for goods, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, rules of origin, trade defense, SMEs, technical barriers to trade, economic cooperation, trade facilitation, services, digital commerce, environment and sustainable development, and responsible tourism.

Many of these clauses are intended for environmental protection, according to the Colombian President’s Office.


This trade agreement is the result of a years-long process to open trade between Colombia and the UAE, with both nations holding products that the other deems necessary to pursue. The agreement will surely boost the income of both the UAE and Colombia as trade between the two countries continues to expand.

However, the trade agreement is an interesting move by Petro, as the President has previously stated that countries that hold diplomatic relations with Israel should cut these relations due to Petro’s perceived violation of a UN resolution to cease the conflict in Gaza by Israel. Despite this pressure, Petro has today made a move to foster relations with the UAE, a country with ties to Israel, which went as far as to warn the US of the Iranian drone and missile attack following Iran’s briefing to the UAE.

While the UAE did not deploy any military resources like their Jordanian counterparts, the Emirate still provided key information to those with close ties to Israel in regards to its defense. This refusal to intercept munition from Iran could be a window into Israeli-UAE relations, which have been strained since the beginning of the Israeli-Gaza conflict.

 source: Atlas News