Israel signs trade deal with UAE


JERUSALEM – Government of Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday signed a free trade agreement that, once ratified, would be the most comprehensive agreement of its kind between Israel and an Arab country and the latest example of deepening ties between the two countries. Jewish state and some Arab governments.

The text of the deal has yet to be published and has yet to be reviewed by the Israeli parliament and formal ratification by the Israeli government, a process that will take at least two weeks. But officials said the agreement, once confirmed, would ease restrictions on almost all trade between the two countries and could increase its annual value tenfold within five years.

The speed with which the deal took shape – it was sealed less than two years after formal ties between Israel and the Emirates were established – underlines the readiness with which Israel is now accepted by some Arab leaders after years of diplomatic isolation.

For decades, Israel was banned by all but two Arab countries, while the others mostly avoided formal diplomatic relations with Israel because of the lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That changed in 2020, when Israel, in four agreements brokered by the Trump administration, established diplomatic relations with Bahrain and the UAE, restored them with Morocco and improved relations with Sudan.

The agreements reflected a shift in priorities by those countries, which now consider the establishment of a Palestinian state of less immediate importance than forming a united front against the threat from Iran and establishing better trade and military ties with Israel.

The trade agreement signed in Dubai on Tuesday by the economy ministers of Israel and the Emirates – Orna Barbivay and Abdulla bin Touq al-Marri – is the most substantive result of those agreements.

The deal will lead to the elimination of tariffs on 96 percent of goods traded between the two countries within five years, both ministries said.

Bilateral trade was worth $885 million by 2021, Israel’s Ministry of Economy said. The free trade agreement could increase the annual value of trade to USD 10 billion within five years, the Ministry of Economy of the Emirates said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described called the deal “historic” and said the negotiations, which began around the time of Mr Bennett’s visit to the Emirates last December, resulted in “the fastest free trade agreement signed in Israel’s history”.

Mohamed Al Khaja, the Ambassador of the Emirates to Israel, called it “An unprecedented achievement.”

According to the Israeli government, the deal will improve trade in medicines, medical equipment, food, plastic goods and fertilizers, as well as Israeli jewelry.

The deal will also enhance bilateral cooperation on intellectual property rights, copyrights and patents, particularly in the technology and agricultural sectors. It could also help Israeli and Emirati companies compete for government contracts in both countries, the Israeli statement said.

The deal follows several other milestones in the relationship between Israel and its new Arab partners.

Mr Bennett and several of his ministers have met their colleagues in the UAE and Bahrain – visits once considered unthinkable – and some ministers have also visited Morocco. Those warm ties have also strengthened Israel’s relationship with Egypt, its oldest Arab partner. Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement in 1979, but avoided a warm relationship until the recent thaw between Israel, the Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

As a sign of improving ties between Israel and Egypt, Mr Bennett met in Egypt in March both Mohammed bin Zayed, the leader of the Emirates, and the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – another summit that is hard to imagine. would have been. 2020.

Israel has also signed preliminary defense agreements with the Bahraini and Moroccan defense ministries, making it easier for their militaries to coordinate and trade military equipment. And at a highly symbolic meeting in March, the foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE and the United States gathered in southern Israel, at the retirement home of Israel’s founding Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. .

Jews living in the Emirates are also increasingly openly observing their religious traditions. Community leaders estimate that the number of resident observant Jews in Dubai has doubled to 500 in the past year, with at least five kosher restaurants opening during that time.

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