9 Dec 2022 17:10

EAEU leaders approve start to talks with UAE on a FTZ, first round expected in March 2023

BISHKEK. Dec 9 (Interfax) - The leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries have approved the decision to start talks on concluding a free trade agreement between the EAEU and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The EAEU country leaders took the decision on Friday in Bishkek as part of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC), the trade bloc of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) said in a statement.

During the talks, the parties are counting on transferring to the fast track mode, and holding the first round as early as March next year, according to the statement that cites EEC Trade Minister Andrei Slepnev.

The EEC council this spring formed a joint group to study the feasibility of concluding an agreement on a free trade zone (FTZ) with the UAE. The group's work resulted in a decision on the advisability of holding talks.

"The work of the joint study group has shown that establishing a FTZ with the UAE would create conditions for growth in our supplies of more than 1,300 commodity items in both the industrial sector and the agro-industrial complex," Slepnev commented.

An agreement with the UAE is under consideration as a way to strengthen the positions of EAEU exporters in the countries of the entire Persian Gulf in the context of the Greater Eurasian Partnership and the North-South corridor, the EEC trade bloc noted.

According to the EEC, the EAEU's trade turnover with the UAE surged 60.9% year-on-year to $6.3 billion in 2021, with imports decreasing 6.8% to around $418 million and exports soaring 69.4% to $5.9 billion.

The EAEU has currently concluded a respective FTZ agreement with Vietnam that entered into force on October 5, 2016; with Iran that entered into force on October 25, 2019, as an interim agreement, and talks are underway to establish a full-fledged FTZ; and with Serbia that entered into force on July 10, 2021. The EAEU signed a FTZ agreement with Singapore in October 2019 that has not yet entered into force owing to EAEU countries settling respective bilateral agreements with Singapore. Negotiations on a FTZ agreement with Egypt are being completed, and negotiations with India and Indonesia have been approved. A joint group has been established in order to study the feasibility of concluding a FTZ agreement with Mongolia.