Dubai, United Arab Emirates—The Philippines and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to start scoping discussions on a possible comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).

 Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Minister of State Ahmed bin Ali Al Sayegh
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Minister of State Ahmed bin Ali Al Sayegh

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez met with UAE’s Ministers of State and Foreign Trade, Minister Ahmed bin Ali Al Sayegh and Minister Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, respectively, on 8 December at the sidelines of the Global Business Forum ASEAN during the Expo 2020 Dubai to discuss deepening of economic relations between the two countries.

“Both governments recognize the large potential to expand bilateral trade and investment relations and are working towards the finalization of key agreements that will pave the way for the start of the broader CEPA negotiations,” Secretary Lopez shared.

According to the trade chief, the CEPA will build on the shared objectives of the Philippines and UAE being pursued under the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Economic and Technical Cooperation and the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) which are both underway.

He added that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Economic and Technical Cooperation provides for the establishment of a Joint Economic Commission which will facilitate the implementation of cooperation initiatives on trade and investment particularly in the areas of agribusiness, manufacturing, renewable energy, real estate development, logistics, transportation, communication, tourism, technology, and innovation. 

Despite the pandemic, a number of Philippine exports have significantly increased in 2020 such as electronic equipment and parts (698.7%), iron and steel (60.4%), footwear (112.4%), processed tropical fruits (133.1%), travel goods and handbags (143.9%), and desiccated coconut (1626.3%).

The Trade Secretary added, “In addition, the Philippines-UAE IPPA is expected to further deepen economic relations between the two countries by creating favorable conditions for investments and stimulating business initiatives while ensuring that the interests and sensitivities of both Parties are protected.”

The IPPA aims to promote and facilitate UAE investments to the Philippines in key sectors of interest such as agribusiness, energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy, infrastructure, IT-BPM, oil & gas, and tourism.

Net foreign direct investments from UAE for the first nine (9) months of the year amounted to USD 2.43-M, more than twice the level of UAE investments for the full year of 2020 (USD 1.18-M).

On the other hand, UAE hosts known Philippine franchise brands and over a thousand Filipino-owned businesses, covering diverse sectors of food and beverage, trading and logistics, consultancy and other creative services, education and training, and hospitality services, among others.

UAE ranked as the second largest destination of overseas Filipinos in the Middle East, next to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to a study conducted by the EON Group in 2019, the profile of Filipinos in the UAE has reached new heights as a majority are in the construction sector, particularly engineering and architecture, followed by the tourism and hospitality sector, customer service, and health and medical fields. “Given our economic complementarities and the strong ties between our peoples, we are optimistic that the proposed CEPA with UAE will redound to mutual benefits and will play an important role in accelerating the growth trajectory of the Philippine economy,” Sec. Lopez added. ♦

Date of Release: 17 December 2021