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Israel signs free trade deal with UAE in first big trade accord with Arab states

Flags of the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Expo 2020 Dubai flutter at Expo 2020 Dubai, in Dubai, the UAE, on January 31, 2022. (File photo by Reuters)

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have finalized a free trade agreement as part of a normalization agreement between the two, marking the first big trade accord between the Tel Aviv regime and an Arab country.

The pact was signed in Dubai on Tuesday after months of negotiations.

“Done,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek, wrote on his Twitter page, referring to the new trade agreement.

President of the UAE-Israel Business Council Dorian Barak said the trade pact defined tax rates, imports, and intellectual property, which would encourage more Israeli companies to set up offices in the UAE, particularly in Dubai.

The council predicts there will be almost 1,000 Israeli companies working in or through the UAE by the end of the current year.

Ahead of the signing, Israel’s Economy Ministry said in a statement on Monday that customs duties will be eliminated on 95 percent of traded products, including food, agriculture, and cosmetic products, as well as medical equipment and medicine.

Last September, Emirati Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri said Abu Dhabi aims to raise the value of economic activity with Israel to more than $1 trillion in the next 10 years, hoping to work together on everything from healthcare to climate change and energy.

It was, however, not clear how both sides expect to reach $1 trillion in economic activity within the next decade.

The UAE economy minister had earlier said the UAE and Israel have between $600 million and $700 million in bilateral trade.

Last December, Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett met with then Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and current UAE President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, becoming the first ruler of the Israeli regime to visit the Persian Gulf state.

The UAE officially inaugurated its embassy in Israel on July 14. The inauguration ceremony was hosted by UAE’s Ambassador to Israel Mohammad al-Khaja, with the regime’s president Isaac Herzog in attendance.

Back in June last year, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid inaugurated the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Israeli consulate in Dubai during a two-day visit.

Israeli ministers had previously visited the UAE, but Lapid was the most senior Israeli diplomat to have made the trip.

Since they reached a US-brokered normalization agreement in August 2020, Israel and the UAE have signed a raft of deals in various areas, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

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