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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan attend a welcoming ceremony at the presidential office in Seoul on Wednesday. Mohamed came to Seoul the previous day for a two-day state visit. (Yonhap)

UAE becomes 1st Arab country to sign free trade pact with S. Korea

(The Korea Herald/ANN) -- South Korea and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday officially signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement aimed at enhancing trade openness, expanding market access and fostering investment during the first state visit of the UAE president to South Korea.
The UAE is the first Arab country to sign such an agreement with South Korea.
Trade, Industry, and Energy Minister Ahn Duk-Geun and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, attend the signing ceremony held on the occasion of the summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul.
The key elements of CEPA, akin to a free trade agreement, include “tariff liberalisation, the opening of service sectors such as health care and online gaming, and the establishment of a future-oriented economic partnership in fields like biotechnology and energy,” according to the presidential office.
Yoon’s office also explained that the signing of the CEPA has established an “institutional framework to strengthen economic partnership across various sectors, including trade liberalisation and investment expansion.”
Under the CEPA, both countries have committed to eliminating tariffs on over 90 percent of traded goods within the next decade.
Park Chun-sup, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, emphasised that once the CEPA is ratified by each parliamentary body, the removal of tariffs on South Korean weapons will result in a surge in weapons exports to the Middle East.
The signing ceremony took place around seven months after both parties confirmed the conclusion of negotiations on CEPA in October 2023.
During the summit, Yoon and Mohamed also “confirmed the outcomes of the UAE’s commitment of a US$30 billion investment through sovereign wealth funds,” and thereby strengthening public confidence in investment cooperation and increasing interest in investing in Korean companies, according to Yoon’s office.
In January 2023, during his trip to the UAE, Yoon secured a US$$30 billion investment commitment during his summit with Mohamed, marking the first state visit by a South Korean President to the UAE.
Yoon’s office explained that “UAE institutions, including Mubadala, are currently reviewing investment opportunities worth over US$6 billion in the Korean market through investment cooperation channels.”
The presidential office also highlighted that the summit has established an “all-encompassing cooperation system covering nuclear power and energy, defense, AI and other advanced technologies, as well as investment.”
The summit concluded with the signing of 19 agreements and memorandums of understanding. The MOUs encompass various areas including climate change response, maritime transport cooperation, joint investment in petrochemicals, cooperation on radio frequency management, expansion of joint oil reserve operations and enhancement of intellectual property capacities.
“President Mohamed’s visit has paved the way for the deepening and advancement of the ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ between the two countries, rooted in the special bond between their leaders,” Yoon’s office said.
The UAE stands as the sole Middle Eastern country to establish a Special Strategic Partnership with South Korea, joining a very select group of countries, including Indonesia, India and Uzbekistan.


(Latest Update May 31, 2024)

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