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Israel sees $6.5bn in trade as UAE peace talks kick off

Israel sees $6.5bn in trade as UAE peace talks kick off

On August 13, the countries announced their plan to normalise ties, a first between Israel and a Gulf Arab nation

Talks to normalise relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates launch this week with a focus on economic issues.

Israel’s Finance Ministry sees potential for annual bilateral trade starting at $2bn and building up to $6.5bn once cooperation matures, according to deputy chief economist Lev Drucker.

This week’s trip will center on promoting cooperation in fields like tourism, finance, trade and health, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The UAE Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Just three weeks ago, such a meeting would have been unheard of.

But on August 13, the countries announced their plan to normalise ties, a first between Israel and a Gulf Arab nation, and only the third such arrangement between the Jewish state and an Arab one.

Making this week’s two-day gathering even more eventful is that on Monday, the delegation of Israelis and Americans will fly from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, reportedly via Saudi Arabia – a first commercial flight of its kind for an Israeli airline.

Read: Israel’s Flagship Carrier El Al Set for Unprecedented UAE Flight

Shared animosity toward Iran brought Israel and the UAE closer, but commerce is another key motivator.

While the UAE has been quiet about its aspirations for specific areas of cooperation, Israeli airlines and banks are already putting out feelers for working on Emirati turf, and Israeli officials have also expressed hope of cooperating in technology and aerospace.

The Finance Ministry’s trade projections are significantly higher than the $1bn mooted by the Ministry of Economy.

Finance Ministry officials are also looking into the potential for negotiating treaties on bilateral investment, taxation, customs and trade financing, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity to discuss internal planning.

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