DUBAI, 18th January, 2017 (WAM) — Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the UAE Minister of Economy, has said that the economic relations between the UAE and New Zealand have seen continued growth and expected to develop further as the two countries are keen to strengthen co-operation in a number of sectors of common interest, prioritised in their respective development plans.

The announcement came during a meeting between the UAE Minister of Economy and Todd McClay, New Zealand’s Minister of Trade, and the delegation accompanying the him. The meeting was held at the UAE Ministry’s Dubai headquarters.

The meeting discussed the potentials of increasing trade and strengthening co-operation in a number of areas such as agriculture and food, renewable energy, innovation, civil aviation and tourism. The officials further focussed on the current status of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the GCC and New Zealand. They also reviewed a number of key issues that could be raised at the next meeting of the Joint Economic Committee, set to take place later this year in New Zealand.

Mohammed Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Shehhi, Under-Secretary for Economic Affairs; Humaid bin Butti Al Muhairi, Assistant Under-Secretary for Corporate Sector and Consumer Protection; Abdullah Sultan AlFan AlShamsi, Assistant Under-Secretary for Industrial Affairs, and several senior officials and advisers from the Ministry of Economy, MOE, were present at the discussions. Jeremy Clarke-Watson, New Zealand’s Ambassador to the UAE; Kevin John Mckenna, Consul General of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission Rebecca Wood also attended the meeting.

Al Mansouri stated that the country’s leadership prioritises innovation and thus places great importance on the National Innovation Strategy. He underscored the strong interest of the ministry to closely work and co-operate with New Zealand on innovation initiatives as it is looking at signing a memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

The minister said that the next meeting – the sixth session of the Joint Economic Committee, would be an important platform for accelerating the pace of current agreements. It would also facilitate discussions on ways to increase developmental opportunities and overcome potential challenges in economic, trade and investment ties and partnerships with the private sector, he added.

According to Al Mansouri, co-operation in agricultural and food industries and enabling the UAE’s agricultural investments in New Zealand top the list of the Joint Economic Committee’s agenda, given their major roles in addressing food security. The meeting will also focus on co-operation in civil aviation, a key trigger to mutual development of trade, investment and tourism.

Both ministers discussed the latest updates on the FTA between New Zealand and the GCC, with Al Mansouri clarifying that the agreement is now in its final stages and is currently undergoing legal review by some of the GCC countries before final approval. He also noted the importance of the agreement in enhancing trade and investment between the two countries.

McClay expressed New Zealand’s paramount interest in FTA as it will significantly increase trade volumes in the region, and lauded the UAE’s and the ministry’s major role in making the agreement a reality.

The New Zealand minister also discussed possibility of bilateral co-operation in gaining access to new regional markets. He noted the importance of the UAE as a commercial gateway that facilitates New Zealand’s trade access to the Middle East, African and European markets, and New Zealand’s value as a significant link for the UAE to access South American markets.

Total foreign trade between the UAE and New Zealand reached US$1.6 billion in 2016, and is expected to increase significantly as both countries continue to push bilateral trade and economic co-operation.

McClay said that New Zealand will soon go ahead with the development and expansion of hospitality projects in several cities, opening an important opportunity for the UAE, which has built a global reputation in this sector.

Al Mansouri also urged New Zealand companies to explore the prospects of doing business in the UAE, which offers an advanced economic environment, facilities, benefits and development incentives that help the growth of high-value industries.

The UAE minister said these criteria form part of the government’s directives towards establishing a knowledge-based economy while exploring growth in transport, renewable energy, infrastructure, and small-and-medium enterprise segments.

WAM/Hazem/Majok