The United Arab Emirates and New Zealand have agreed to start negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which will boost trade and investment ties between the two nations.

A joint declaration of intent confirming the agreement was signed by Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Todd McClay, New Zealand’s Minister for Trade.

The proposed CEPA reflects growing bilateral relations, with non-oil trade between the UAE and New Zealand reaching US$764.5 million in 2023, an increase of more than 15 percent over the pre-Covid year of 2019.

The agreement will seek to boost those numbers through the removal or reduction of tariffs and trade barriers, the improvement of market access, and the establishment of investment pathways that will open up new opportunities in key sectors such as agriculture, renewable energy, logistics, education, professional services and healthcare.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi stated, “New Zealand has become a valued trade partner for the UAE, one that shares our conviction that open, rules-based trade is an essential driver of sustainable economic growth. A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement will open up a range of exciting opportunities for both nations, with the UAE offering direct access to new markets for New Zealand’s exports, particularly in food and agricultural products, while our services exporters and investors will be able to explore a range of high-value sectors. We are both eager to get started.”

McClay said, “Today’s launch of negotiations is an exciting step towards cementing a significant trade and economic relationship. This follows the conclusion of successful exploratory discussions, as well as public consultation, which demonstrated the importance of pursuing a high-quality agreement to boost our economy and unlock greater export opportunities.”

He added that an agreement with the UAE will provide new opportunities to New Zealand exporters who “are integral to revitalising our economy, which is why the Government has set the ambitious target of doubling exports by value within 10 years. New opportunities in the UAE will open further commercial opportunities that will help lift domestic incomes and reduce the cost of living."

"The UAE is a key export destination and hub in the Gulf region, and there are significant opportunities to enhance cooperation across a range of areas, including agriculture and sustainable energy,” he said.

Foreign trade remains the cornerstone of the UAE’s economic agenda. In 2023, the UAE’s non-oil trade in goods reached an all-time high of $701 billion, a 12.6 percent increase on 2022 – and 34.7 percent more than 2021. A CEPA with New Zealand will be a significant addition to the UAE foreign trade network, which is helping to propel non-oil foreign trade towards its target of AED4 trillion (US$1.1 trillion) by 2031.