20231204 cepa uae philippines
The UAE and Philippines is moving towards a full-fledged CEPA pact, and one that will have significant boosters for investment flows too. Image Credit: ThaniAlZeyoudi / X(formerly Twitter)

Dubai: The UAE and one of its key trade partners, the Philippines, are working towards a CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) deal.

As a key step towards that end result, the two nations finalized the ‘scope of negotiations’ for the CEPA, and once done would usher in a ‘new era of trade and investment cooperation’ between the two, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

The UAE is the Philippines’ second largest trade partner in the Middle East and Africa, accounting for around 30 per cent of the Southeast Asian nation’s total trade with the region.

In first-half 2023, non-oil trade between UAE and Philippines increases to $500 million, which comes to a 19.4 per cent growth compared to the same period in 2022. Total non-oil trade between the two countries in 2022 was $1.9 billion, itself double the amount over the last two years.

'Heart of a rapidly growing region'

“The Philippines is a high-growth economy in the heart of a rapidly growing region,” said Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, in a statement.

“The launch of preliminary CEPA negotiations reflects our shared desire for sustainable economic growth, a vision we agree can be realized by strengthening our economic ties.

“The CEPA we will work towards will create new opportunities for our respective business communities, boosting investment and trade exchanges, expediting the flow of goods, and creating new joint investments and projects in priority sectors.”

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Growing CEPA alliances
The UAE currently has CEPA deals struck with 7 countries.

A chance to turbo-charge FDI flows

By the close of 2020, the Philippines’ FDI (foreign direct investment) in the UAE was valued at $31.1 million, while the UAE direct investment into the Philippines was $11 million in 2021.

‘Beyond lower tariffs and reduced barriers to trade, the UAE-Philippines CEPA is expected to drive capital flows even further by opening pathways for new investments and joint ventures,” the statement said.

The UAE is already home to a sizeable Filipino resident base, and remittance flows from here to the Philippines have put in some heavy growth numbers. “With strong people-to-people ties and economic complementarities at its foundation, we are optimistic that the CEPA will result to mutual prosperity and sustainable development for the Philippines and the UAE," said Alfredo E. Pascual, the Philippines' Secretary of Trade and Industry of the Department of Trade and Industry.