Vietnam and United Arab Emirates to Begin Negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

The UAE and Vietnam have established themselves as the largest trading partners in the Middle East & North Africa region, however, there is still potential to further strengthen the economic connections between the two countries.

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The two sides at the meeting. Source: moit.gov.vn
The two sides at the meeting. Source: moit.gov.vn

Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien and Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have taken a monumental step towards strengthening the economic partnership between the two nations by signing a Ministerial Declaration to commence negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA). This action follows the completion of Vietnam’s necessary procedures.

The signing ceremony of an agreement between Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh and UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi took place following a meeting between Dien and Al Zeyoudi during the Vietnamese minister’s recent working visit to the UAE, according to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

During the meeting, the Vietnamese official suggested that the two countries could commence negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) once the draft terms of reference (TOR) of the agreement had been agreed upon and authorized by the relevant authorities.

Dien highly praised the potential that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) can offer both Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He noted that Vietnam has become a major manufacturing hub for many commodities in the region and the world, while the UAE boasts significant advantages as a transshipment port, financial center, and logistics hub. The synergy of these strengths, he said, will provide a major impetus for the growth of their trade and investment relations in the near future.

The Minister affirmed that the UAE is Vietnam’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa regions, noting that there is still ample opportunity for the two countries to take advantage of the potential of their economies, which have complementary strengths.

He suggested that both sides should enhance the exchange of delegations at all levels and business delegations to search for potential collaboration opportunities, particularly in the areas of trade and investment.

Dien also proposed that management agencies from both Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should study and promote the establishment of a cooperation mechanism for Halal certification to facilitate the trade in agricultural products between the two countries.

The two sides sign a Ministerial Declaration on starting negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA)  at the meeting. Source: moit.gov.vn
The two sides sign a Ministerial Declaration on starting negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) at the meeting. Source: moit.gov.vn

Agreeing with the proposals of the Vietnamese official, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, Al Zeyoudi expressed his country’s desire to broaden economic collaboration with Vietnam, noting that it always considers Vietnam an important economic partner.

The UAE’s leaders have issued instructions on beginning negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) once Vietnam has completed its internal procedures. Furthermore, not only the Ministry of Foreign Trade, but also a number of other ministries and departments, such as those responsible for energy, industry, and logistics services, have all expressed support for negotiating, signing, and executing the CEPA.

Also during the visit, Minister Dien had a meeting with the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei.

Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien meets with the UAE's Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei. Photo: VNA
Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien meets with the UAE’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei. Photo: VNA

Dien informed his host of Vietnam’s desire to strengthen its collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure in both traditional and new and renewable energy development.

He proposed that the two sides sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on energy cooperation, noting that Vietnam will provide favorable conditions for UAE partners to cooperate with Vietnam in oil and gas exploration. He suggested considering the possibility of investing in the construction of a hub for the transshipment and storage of crude oil and petrochemical products in Vietnam to meet the needs of the Asian region.

Dien also requested that the UAE side explore the potential for investing in power transmission infrastructure in Vietnam and provide assistance in training personnel in this sector.

Agreeing with Dien’s proposals, Al Mazrouei emphasized the immense potential for both countries to strengthen their cooperation.

The UAE has been actively researching, negotiating, and signing multiple free trade agreements (FTAs) with key partners such as Vietnam, and the country’s government is optimistic that an FTA might be signed this year.

The UAE is keen to collaborate with Vietnam in various areas, including power transmission, power generation, food security, healthcare, infrastructure, construction, and port management, according to an official statement. This strategic partnership is intended to foster greater economic growth and prosperity in both countries.

Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established diplomatic relations in 1993 and have since maintained a mutually beneficial partnership. The two countries have worked together to build a strong foundation for economic, commercial, and cultural ties. From increased trade agreements to the organization of mutual cultural events, Vietnam and the UAE have enriched their relationship over the past two decades.

According to the UAE’s statistics, the Vietnam – UAE trade turnover for the year 2022 surged to a record-breaking USD 8.8 billion, exhibiting a remarkable growth of 35% compared to the previous year. This remarkable growth cemented the UAE’s position as Vietnam’s largest trade partner in the Middle East.

The Vietnam Trade Office in the UAE has declared that industrial and agricultural production in the nation is comparatively meager, thus necessitating imports of food and consumer goods to fulfill local demands. This presents a remarkable chance for Vietnam to raise its exports to the UAE market.

The number of tourists to the UAE this year is expected to surge, creating an increased demand for food and beverages, textiles, and footwear. This presents a great opportunity for Vietnam to capitalize on and expand its export of these items.

In particular, Vietnam stands out from the rest of the world as the top exporter of frozen pangasius and fillets to the UAE, with a staggering market share of over 50%.

Vietnam is a leading exporter of farm produce and fruit, such as dragon fruit, watermelon, and lemons, to the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries. Its exports of these commodities have far surpassed that of its competitors in the region.

Hannah Nguyen