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Second round of PH-UAE trade talks set this week

Manila Times - 08 July 2024

Second round of PH-UAE trade talks set this week
By Janine Alexis Miguel

The Philippines and the United Arab Emirates will hold a second round of free trade talks this week, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said, with the aim of concluding negotiations by October or November this year.

Undersecretary Allan Gepty said the Trade department was looking at finalizing the Philippines-United Arab Emirates Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (PH-UAE CEPA) before the year ends.

"Our agreement with UAE is to conclude the negotiation within the year. We’re looking at October or November of this year," Gepty was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) on Friday.

The first round of negotiations for the free trade agreement was held in May. The second round will be held from July 8 to 10 in Manila and will focus on market access.

The PH-UAE CEPA aims to expand trade and investment opportunities between the two countries by expanding the flow of goods and services exports to the UAE and the greater Gulf region.

It also aims to promote investment and create more opportunities for Filipino professionals and service providers, the Trade department said.

The Philippines and the UAE signed terms of reference (TOR) in December 2023 to begin negotiations for the CEPA, the initial phase towards a bilateral trade agreement. The terms outlined the negotiation process as well as the areas and extent of the proposed trade deal.

To fast track the negotiation, working groups are being formed to discuss the key areas such as trade in goods, rules of origin, trade in services, digital trade, customs procedures and trade facilitation, investment, intellectual property rights, and trade and sustainable development.

If finalized, the PH-UAE CEPA will be the Philippines’ first FTA with a Gulf Cooperation Council member-state and in the Middle East. It will also be the Philippines’ fourth bilateral FTA, following agreements with South Korea in 2023, Japan in 2006, and the European Free Trade Association in 2016.

The Trade department said that the UAE was a promising market for halal products, tropical fruits, clothing, and high-end finished consumer goods.

Filipino food and agricultural products with untapped export potential in the Middle Eastern country were said to include bananas, desiccated coconuts, coconut oil, pineapples, and raw cane sugar. Personal care products including perfumes and eye makeup also have much potential for export to the emirate.

Currently, the UAE is the Philippines’ 18th biggest trading partner and the top export market in the GCC.

Trade department data showed that total trade between the Philippines and the UAE was $1.88 billion last year, with exports and imports at $341.97 million and $1.54 billion, respectively.

 source: Manila Times