The Ministry of Economy and Industry wants to invite major international food chains operating in the United Arab Emirates to open stores in Israel, Globes reported on Wednesday.
The ministry’s director general Ron Malka and other senior officials are set to hold meetings with the heads of supermarket chains in the UAE, at the same time as negotiations on a free trade agreement between the UAE and Israel, sources were quoted as saying.
The reason for bringing the global food purveyors to Israel is to stimulate competition in the Israeli market, the lack of which has been blamed for high prices.
Three companies mentioned in the report were: France’s Carrefour, which is second worldwide for sales, after Walmart; Lulu Group International, headquartered in Abu Dhabi and with branches all over the Arab world and the Far East; and British supermarket chain Waitrose.
Meetings with those companies are planned to take place during Malka and his staff’s visit to the UAE to negotiate a free trade agreement. Sources inform Globes that the agreement was slated to be signed in May, but the progress has been so impressive that they think it could be signed earlier, in April.
Ohad Cohen, head of the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, said the FTA will bring large advantages for Israeli companies. The UAE has free trade agreements with the Gulf states and with the EFTA countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), and once Israel is brought in, it will be able to trade free of customs duties with these countries as well.
Israel currently has free trade agreements with the U.S., the E.U., Turkey, most countries in Latin America, Ukraine, and the U.K. An additional agreement was signed with South Korea last year, and an agreement with India is expected to be signed later this year. China, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, and Armenia are on the list of potential partners.