The Turkish government on Friday sent the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi on March 3 to parliament for approval, a fairly quick ratification process for an international agreement, contrary to usual practice.
Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in Turkey on May 14, and parliament will soon go on recess, thus necessitating a speedy approval.
Negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement between Turkey and the UAE started last year. While the two countries grant each other privileges in the trade of a number of products, they also plan to create a free trade zone. According to some projections, the agreement will increase the trade volume between the two countries from the current $10 billion to $40 billion over the next five years.
With the signed agreement, about 80 percent of goods subject to duty are exempted by the parties.
The UAE is Turkey’s largest trading partner in the Gulf region. Many globally branded Turkish companies in the service sector, from contracting to the food industry and logistics, from finance to health, education and tourism, are conducting successful operations in the UAE.
Text of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement:2-4999
After the visit of UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed to Turkey in 2021, political relations between the two countries began to improve, and the UAE created a $10 billion investment fund for Turkey. According to experts, UAE-based companies plan to buy some Turkish companies whose value has dramatically decreased due to the depreciation of the Turkish lira. Turkish media also reported that the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is negotiating the sale of some profitable public companies to the UAE.
Until recently the two countries were at odds due to Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, which Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE declared a terrorist organization. They were rivals in many fields, especially in Libya and the Middle East. Relations that started to improve in 2021 resulted in the Erdoğan government’s withdrawal of serious allegations about the UAE regime. The pro-Erdoğan media also halted broadcasts criticizing the UAE as well. As a gesture, Erdoğan supplied unmanned combat aerial vehicles to the UAE produced by his son-in-law’s company, Baykar Makina.
Baykar Makina was reported to have delivered 20 combat drones to the UAE in September 2022 and could sell more. Erdoğan announced that the UAE has offered to establish a joint production facility for military drones.
Of course, this goodwill is not one-sided. The UAE is home to one dissident whom Erdoğan wants to silence. Sedat Peker, a former ally of the Turkish president and a convicted mafia boss, has been living in Dubai since May 2021. He revealed scandalous information on corruption, weapons sent by the government to jihadists in Syria and ruling party relations with drug gangs in videos he started to post on YouTube in 2021. Ankara increased its pressure on Dubai after Peker announced he would target Erdoğan directly and reveal two months before the elections in Turkey the illegal acts he carried out on Erdoğan’s orders. According to his associates, the UAE authorities forbade Peker from using social media. They informed him that if he tweeted or even liked a post on Twitter, he would be deported.
In an interview with journalist Erk Acerer, Peter said Turkish opposition parties could pave the way for his revelations by putting pressure on the United Arab Emirates. He also suggested that an online petition be organized.
There are less than two months left until the elections, and Peker has not yet made public the revelations he promised. Some observers predict that Abu Dhabi will lift some of the restrictions on Peker if it is convinced that the opposition bloc will come to power in the upcoming elections.
Opposition parties claim that Erdoğan will offer new concessions to his close circle and businessmen against the possibility of losing the presidential election. Nordic Monitor reported in December that a bill allowing the extension of lease agreements for 18 seaports operated by private companies without new tenders was passed in parliament. As a result, favored companies will have an additional period of up to 19 years to operate the ports.