Israel reaches out for more trade through FTAs

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India and the Emirates look to be Israel's next targets for greater economic partnership.


Israel has demonstrated its desire to open up its economy on a global scale by committing to two new free trade agreements that it hopes will be finalized by next year.

In a speech to mark the opening of the Israel-Abu Dhabi Business Forum, Israel's ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek said he hopes to see a deal made between his nation and the Emirates soon.

He explained that in the year since the Abraham Accords were signed in particular, the countries have shown their willingness to join together and work cooperatively in a way that will bring economic prosperity.

The Abraham Accords were signed at the US White House in September 2020 and aimed to normalize diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel. In officially declaring peace, the Emirates became the first Gulf state to work with Israel in around 70 years.

Now, both sides will continue to carry out due diligence to ensure the feasibility of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement before signing any paperwork.

According to the Emirates News Agency, if everything progresses as currently scheduled, a free trade deal could be in place within nine months.

UAE minister of state for foreign trade Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi said he feels there are many areas where the two sides could cooperate and that the potential of an FTA is only just starting to be realized.

Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa agreed, adding: "Without economic prosperity, the hopes to stabilize the region will remain as just hopes and dreams."

Elsewhere, Israel has been building bridges with India too, having agreed this month to resume negotiations on an FTA that were in limbo.

India's external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar made the announcement after meeting with foreign minister Yair Lapid, saying he is confident a deal could be reached as early as June 2022.

There has been talk of a bilateral agreement between the two nations for more than a decade, but this marks the first time that a deadline has actually been set.

Mr Lapid said an FTA would be in the interests of both sides and added: "I am looking forward to deeply strengthening friendship between our countries."

A breakthrough in economic communications seemed to come after the historic visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to Israel in July 2017.

Israel has a liberal import policy and much to offer other nations in terms of trade, but its potential has often been held back by its continued involvement in conflict with neighboring Palestine.

However, there are hopes that the region could move away from this towards eventual peace, particularly given the tentative success of the Abraham Accords that have helped to build trust in Israel among other countries.

Israel is aware that it needs to boost trade with higher income nations to strengthen its economy and reduce its reliance on the US, something it can do by signing FTAs and increasing its trading market.

So far, it has deals in place with partners including Canada, Poland, Turkey, the EU and the MERCOSUR countries, but two new economic allies would surely be welcome as part of these ambitions.