The UAE became a contracting party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1994, and subsequently became a member of the World Trade Organization in April of 1996.
The UAE is also signatory to the Information Technology Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a treaty binding 78 countries (representing 97% of world trade in IT products) that seeks to eliminate tariffs on IT products. The numerous goods covered by the treaty are valued at over $1.3 trillion per year.
The United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2004 to provide a formal framework for dialogue on economic reform and trade liberalization. TIFAs promote the establishment of legal protection for investors, improvements in intellectual property rights protection, more transparent and efficient customs procedures, and greater transparency in government and commercial regulations. Through this process, the United States Government can identify potential partners for further trade cooperation, such as free trade agreements (FTA).
The United States began negotiating an FTA with the UAE in March 2005. In early 2007, the United States and the UAE announced that they would not be able to complete FTA negotiations under the existing time frame for trade promotion authority, but that both sides remain committed to completing FTA negotiations later. No further FTA negotiations have taken place.
In 2012 the UAE, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), became party to the U.S.-GCC Framework Agreement for Trade, Economic, Investment, and Technical Cooperation. In 2014, the UAE ratified this agreement via Federal Decree No. 86. Since 2012, the United States and the UAE have held several iterations of the U.S.–UAE Economic Policy Dialogue, which provides a platform to collaborate on economic issues and address irritants to the bilateral commercial relationship.
The UAE is party to several multilateral and bilateral trade agreements, including with partner countries in the GCC. As part of the GCC, the UAE has strong economic ties with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, meaning the UAE shares a common market and a customs union with these nations. Under the Greater Arab Free Trade Area Agreement, the UAE has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.