UAE, Ukraine conclude talks on bilateral trade deal

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates and Ukraine have completed negotiations for a bilateral trade deal, according to a joint statement released on Monday, ahead of its formal signing.

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will remove or reduce tariffs on a range of good and products, remove trade barriers and ease market access to exporters from both sides, the statement said.

In addition, the CEPA will also "support Ukraine's recovery and the rebuilding of key industries and infrastructure, while also helping to strengthen supply chains to the (Middle East and North Africa) region for major exports such as grains, machinery and metals."

The Gulf state has tried to remain neutral in the Ukraine conflict despite Western pressure on Gulf oil producers to help isolate Russia, a fellow OPEC+ member. It started negotiations for a trade agreement with Ukraine at the end of 2022.

UAE-Ukraine bilateral non-oil trade reached $385.8 million in 2023, with joint investment worth about $360 million by the end of 2022 spanning sectors including logistics and infrastructure, travel and tourism, and advanced technology.

While the Ukrainian economy has deeply felt the impact of the war with Russia, the UAE is positioning itself to take a longer term view of potential future benefits.

"We want to be ready for the next era of Ukraine," Thani al Zeyoudi, UAE minister for foreign trade, told Reuters.

"It (the CEPA) is an important step for us to have another gateway to Europe through Ukraine," Zeyoudi said, adding the deal will provide potential market access not only for goods but also services and allow UAE companies to build up connectivity to the European Union if or when Ukraine joins the bloc.

(Reporting by Rachna Uppal; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)