The United Arab Emirates will pursue an aggressive timetable to negotiate broad economic agreements with eight countries it wants to deepen trade ties with, hoping it can wrap up some of those talks within a year, its trade minister said on Tuesday.
The Gulf state, already a hub for global trade, this month announced plans to strengthen trade and economic ties with India, the United Kingdom, Turkey and South Korea, among others.
“We really do hope that … at least the first ones are going to be concluded within six months to one year. So we are talking about a very aggressive, quick work and quick negotiations,” Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi told Reuters in an online interview.
He did not identify any country.
The UAE would bilaterally pursue what Al Zeyoudi called comprehensive economic accords with the eight countries on trade, foreign direct investment and sectors like tourism.
The other countries the UAE has said it wants to deepen trade ties with are Ethiopia, Indonesia, Israel and Kenya.
The UAE’s push to bolster its status as the Middle East commercial hub comes after it was hit hard by the pandemic with its economy contracting last year, and as it faces increasing economic competition from Saudi Arabia.
Al Zeyoudi said the UAE was focused on strengthening its own economy and, without naming Saudi Arabia, was not paying attention to what others were doing in region, though added that economic competition between states was natural and healthy.
The renewed focus on the economy also follows a reset of its assertive foreign policy that has seen it take steps to mend strained ties with regional power Turkey and neighbor Qatar.
The UAE wants economic and trade relations with those countries, as well as regional power Iran, Al Zeyoudi said.
Al Zeyoudi, who is in the US, also said he had discussed US tariffs on UAE aluminum and steel imports with US counterparts and that he hoped the matter would be “sorted.”