UAE Deepens Ties With ASEAN

UAE Minster for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi highlighted the increasing importance of ASEAN to the UAE’s foreign trade agenda….reports Asian Lite News

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, has led a UAE delegation to Jakarta, Indonesia, to attend the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, the annual economic policy forum that brings together heads of state, policymakers and business leaders to discuss key issues facing South-East Asia.

During the visit, Dr. Al Zeyoudi held several high-level meetings with prime ministers, ministers and senior government officials from across the region to explore greater trade and investment opportunities between the UAE and the ASEAN bloc and to build consensus on key issues of global trade in the build-up to the World Trade Organisation’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi in February 2024.

These included bilateral meetings with ministers from the host nation, Indonesia, in which Dr. Al Zeyoudi joined Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Trade; Bahlil Lahadalia, Minister of Investment; and Sandiaga Uno, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, in heralding the implementation of the UAE-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which came into force on 1st September 2023.

Both sides agreed to work in unison to ensure they deliver on the projection of US$10 billion in bilateral non-oil trade within five years.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi also met with senior representatives of KADIN, the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, to enhance private-sector collaboration in priority sectors and accelerate bilateral trade flows. Agriculture, energy, logistics, tourism and the Islamic economy were identified as those with the most promise for two-way trade and investment.

The UAE minister later held talks with Cham Nimul, Minister of Commerce for Cambodia, with whom the UAE signed a CEPA in June this year. They discussed timelines for the implementation process and how best to leverage the opportunities created by the deal.

Al Zeyoudi then met Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry for Malaysia, to assess the progress of negotiations towards their CEPA with the UAE.

Bilateral meetings were also held with Nguyen Hong Dien, Minister of Industry and Trade for Vietnam, which centred on accelerating the progress of CEPA negotiations, preparations for MC13, and investment opportunities in areas of shared interest, particularly renewable energy, food security and the green economy. There were also meetings with Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Minister for Trade and Industry for the Philippines and Francisco Kalbuadi Lay, Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.

Al Zeyoudi also held talks with John WH Denton AO, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), during which he discussed the positive outcomes of the recent B20 Summit held in India and shed light on preparations for the forthcoming MC13.

The broader UAE-ASEAN relationship, which was cemented in 2022 with the UAE’s signing of the ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-east Asia, was discussed during Dr Thani’s meeting with ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, and Deputy Secretary-General Satvinder Singh. They reviewed the recently revealed trade figures for H1 2023, which showed that the UAE and ASEAN shared US$15.3 billion in trade, a 2% increase on H1 2022, and restated their commitment to fostering greater economic collaboration.

According to Al Zeyoudi, the ASEAN bloc represented 5.2 percent of the UAE’s total non-oil foreign trade in 2022, reaching US$32.2 million.

On Day 2 of the summit, Al Zeyoudi highlighted the increasing importance of ASEAN to the UAE’s foreign trade agenda during a special session titled Innovation, Sustainability, and Prosperity: Strengthening the UAE-ASEAN Partnership. In his keynote address, he said that the nations of South-East Asia are natural trade and investment partners for the UAE as they all share pro-growth, pro-trade agendas and that there are limitless opportunities in sectors such as agriculture, renewable energy, advanced technology, logistics and sustainable travel and tourism that can be developed.

Al Zeyoudi commented, “The ASEAN Business and Investment Summit is an event that shapes the economic agenda of one of the most dynamic regions in the world – and the conversations and resolutions that take place here resonate far beyond South-East Asia. I believe that, as the economic centre of gravity continues to shift eastwards, the UAE and ASEAN can form a powerful new corridor of opportunity, one that can direct capital into high-growth sectors, develop new solutions in food security and energy transition, and create clusters of excellence in the industries of the future.

“Our CEPA programme, which includes completed deals with Indonesia and Cambodia and the launch of negotiations with Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, underlines our confidence in these economies – and their role in delivering a new Asian Future,” he added.

The UAE minister was also the guest of honour at a special private-sector roundtable organised by the Asia House think tank to discuss the evolving UAE-ASEAN relationship. During the briefing, Dr. Al Zeyoudi expanded on the country’s foreign-trade agenda, its increasing role in global trade policy and its desire to build stronger trade and investment ties with ASEAN, considered an important new centre of growth. The audience was comprised of representatives of leading multinational companies.

Al Zeyoudi was joined in Indonesia by a UAE delegation that included Abdulla Salem Al Dhaheri, UAE Ambassador to Indonesia; Abdalla Sultan Al Owais; Vice Chairman of the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) and Chairman of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Jamal Saif Al Jarwan Al Shamsi, Secretary-General of the UAE International Investors Council; Ahmad Ibrahim Almutawa, Regional CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports Group; Dawood Al Shezawi, Chairman of Annual Investment Meeting (AIM); Abdul Saleem VI, COO of Lulu Group International, as well as representatives of Abu Dhabi Ports Group, Dubai Chambers, DMCC, G42 Healthcare and other business leaders and investors.

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