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CEPA is a testament to enduring UAE-India ties

The vision that our countries share — of economic prosperity, cultural richness, and people-to-people exchange — forms the basis of our partnership. This is only the beginning of this era of cooperation

By Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh

Published: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 9:47 PM

This week was a historic moment for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India. By inaugurating the new year with the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), our two countries have solidified a truth we have known for years: Through increased cooperation, we will continue enjoying the immense prosperity and opportunity that await us as partners.

The CEPA is as much an economic partnership as it is a testament to the brotherly relations our countries have enjoyed since the establishment of our diplomatic relationship in 1972. In fact, the start of our bilateral relations predates our diplomatic engagement, with a history of commerce dating back centuries.

As our ancestors traded goods and traversed the ocean seeking contacts and cultural exchanges, they set the stage for the flourishing relationship that we see today. In fact, India is the UAE’s largest trading partner in terms of exports, comprising $26.8 billion or 10.8 per cent of its total exports in 2019. That same year, India was the ninth largest recipient of foreign direct investment from the UAE with an inflow of $51 billion. Moreover, the UAE and India signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement in January 2017 to set out an ambitious roadmap for political and economic cooperation.

Now, the UAE is taking bold steps to strengthen its economy and that of the wider region by improving and expanding bilateral relations with key partners. We aim to double the size of our economy in the coming decade and attract top human capital. Foreign trade will be an integral pillar of this development.

The CEPA model is central to the UAE’s efforts to build our economy over the next 50 years and solidify our position as a global economic hub. It also reflects our aim to develop partnerships that are mutually beneficial to the UAE and trade partners.

What tangible benefits will the UAE-India CEPA offer? First, it will trigger increased investment flows, lower tariffs, and create enormous new opportunities for key sectors in both India and the UAE, including air transport, environment, investment, digital trade, and more.

Second, the CEPA will make it easier for small and medium enterprises to go global by granting them access to new customers, networks, and avenues of collaboration. The private sector will benefit from this as it remains at the forefront of innovation and economic growth.

Third—and perhaps most incredibly—through this CEPA, the UAE and India aim to increase bilateral non-oil trade to over $100 billion within five years.

Prior to concluding the UAE-India CEPA, our two countries signed a number of key economic agreements to boost trade and investment in recent years, including an Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation, an Agreement on the Protection and Promotion of Investment, and an Air Services Agreement. These agreements came in addition to the establishment of a Joint Committee and UAE-India High-Level Taskforce Group on Investment.

Economic cooperation as embodied by the CEPA forms one part of the deep friendship that our nations share. Today, millions of Indian nationals working in the UAE form a vibrant community that has become an inseparable part of our national fabric. In fact, the Indian diaspora makes up the largest expatriate community in the UAE; 225 weekly direct flights connect India and the UAE and ensure our peoples continue to engage in trade, study, and tourism.

Through this interaction, we have celebrated each other’s festivals and honoured our respective heritage, practised our religious traditions in harmony, and learned about each other’s diverse languages, popular culture, food, and families.

To be certain, the heart of the UAE would not be the same without the contributions of its Indian community.

In this vein, we are truly proud of India’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai under the theme “The future is in India.” It is no coincidence that the UAE’s National Day was recently named by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as World Futures Day, as both our countries look to invest in advanced industries that will reshape our world.

The vision that our countries share — of economic prosperity, cultural richness, and people-to-people exchange — forms the basis of our partnership. This is only the beginning of this era of cooperation.

Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh is Minister of State in the UAE

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