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Turkey, UAE sign free trade deal as ties improve

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The oil-rich United Arab Emirates and Turkey signed a free trade agreement on Friday, the Gulf country’s president said, the latest step in improving ties long strained by regional disputes, Agence France-Presse reported.

For Turkey, the pact comes ahead of elections on May 14 as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sticks with contested economic policies that have deterred many foreign investors.

“The signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with my friend @RTErdogan strengthens the partnership between the UAE & Türkiye,” Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said on Twitter.

The pact “builds on our longstanding ties to deliver further growth, opportunity & stability for our countries & our people,” he said.

Turkish Trade Minister Mehmet Muş attended the signing in Abu Dhabi during a video summit between Sheikh Mohammed and Erdoğan.

The pact aims to eliminate or reduce customs duties on 82 percent of goods and products, accounting for more than 93 percent of non-oil trade, the official WAM news agency reported.

Non-oil exchanges between the two countries reached $19 billion last year, up 40 percent on the previous year and 112 percent from 2020, WAM said.

“It is expected that the agreement will contribute to increasing non-oil bilateral trade to $40 billion annually within five years, while also creating 25,000 new job opportunities by 2031,” the news agency added.

Turkey and the UAE have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and have sparred over issues including gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

But since 2021 Erdoğan has sought to improve ties with regional rivals in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up, particularly from the West.

Early last year, Erdoğan made his first visit to the UAE in nearly a decade and called on business leaders to invest in his country.

The Turkish leader’s UAE trip followed Sheikh Mohammed’s rare visit to Ankara in November 2021. The UAE then announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey.

The Emirates sees Turkey as a route to new markets.

After a Feb. 6 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, killing tens of thousands and causing an estimated $34 billion in damage, the UAE spearheaded regional relief efforts.

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