Israel Signs Trade Deal with UAE, Eyes More Peace Partners

Israel and UAE implement free trade deal with customs accord. Photo courtesy of Amos Ben-Gershom (Israeli GPO).

Israel on Sunday signed a trade deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and used the opportunity to promote—even predict—more peace in the Middle East. “This historic agreement that has been signed with the UAE continues to bear fruit for the benefit of the people of both countries,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the UAE signing. “…I am certain that we will be able to expand the circle of peace between Israel and additional countries in our region.”

The customs agreement signed between the UAE and Israel on Sunday will lower or eliminate the customs duties on approximately 96% of the goods traded between the nations, as well as open up UAE government tenders to Israeli companies. The arrangement implements the free trade accord signed between the sides in May 2022.

Netanyahu, whose comments were published in an Israeli press release, said the customs accord will “lower the cost-of-living and inject energy into business between Israel and the UAE.”

The trade deal follows the peace agreement signed between Israel and the UAE as part of the Abraham Accords, a multi-national peace initiative that since 2020 has already seen Israel sign historic peace treaties with four nations including the UAE. And like Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen sees opportunity for more nations to join the Accords.

“The taking effect of the free trade agreement [with the UAE] is important news for the Israeli economy, for the strengthening of ties with the UAE and is further testament to the importance of the Abraham Accords. We are currently striving to expand the Abraham Accords to additional countries,” Cohen was quoted in the press release as saying.

Even before the customs deal took effect, trade between Israel and the UAE exceeded $2.5 billion in 2022—not including software and services. This made the UAE the 16th largest trading partner with Israel, according to the press release.

The customs arrangement was jointly signed by Cohen and UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja, with Netanyahu in attendance. The Israeli press release said the free trade deal kickstarted by the customs accord will “be a main growth engine for strengthening economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries and will further strengthen bilateral ties.” With the free trade deal now underway, the Israeli Foreign Ministry was noted to anticipate the scope of UAE-Israel trade to “increase considerably, which will lead to additional jobs in the Israeli market and will also lower the cost-of-living in Israel.”

In a symbol of the improved relations between the UAE and Israel, Khaja publicly highlighted the customs deal signing and mirrored Israel’s sentiment on his official Twitter feed, noting they “expect this to boost trade, improve the standard of living and lower the cost of goods.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, March 26, 2023)

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