(Photo credit: KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
Israel’s economy minister announced on 16 November that talks have started with the UAE to establish a free trade agreement between the two countries.
The announcement came following a virtual meeting between Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and her Emirati counterpart, Abdulla Bin Touq al Marri.
“This agreement will significantly strengthen trade between the two countries, remove barriers, and expand economic cooperation,” Barbivai told Al Marri, according to her ministry.
Other senior Israeli officials are also currently in Dubai to take part in negotiations over the agreement.
Last year, Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi normalized relations as part of a US-sponsored deal, becoming the first country in the Persian Gulf to do so before Bahrain also joined the normalization agreements.
Since then, bilateral trade in goods between Israel and the UAE have reached nearly $500 million in 2021 alone, and the Emirati economy minister recently announced that the country expects to reach $1 trillion in economic activity with Israel by 2031.
However, the announcement of free trade agreement negotiations comes on the heels of a call by Israel’s energy minister to cancel a deal with the UAE to transport oil from the Gulf to Europe via Israel.
Energy Minister Karine Elharrar said on 16 November that this deal, one of the biggest to emerge from the normalization agreements, poses a significant environmental risk.
“I am calling to cancel the EAPC agreement. It poses many risks to the Gulf of Eilat, to residents, and it does not benefit Israel’s energy market,” Elharrar said in a statement.
The deal was signed between Israel’s state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and MED-RED Land Bridge, a company with Emirati and Israeli owners. The plan calls for oil to be unloaded from tankers in the Red Sea port of Eilat before being transferred across Israel via an existing pipeline to the Mediterranean.