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Win-win-win: The Abraham Accords’ opportunities with Asia

Trilateral cooperation leveraging complementary strengths and strong historic ties mean boons in security, food, medicine, energy and much more
Illustrative: Solar panels in the desert near Eilat, Israel. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Solar panels in the desert near Eilat, Israel. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

At a dinner this week with ambassadors of Asian countries to Israel, one ambassador in particular raised the possibility of establishing trilateral cooperation together with Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Take solar energy for example, an area in which the opportunities are promising: countries of the Far East have impressive production capacity; Gulf countries have experience – including the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi – as well as natural resources and financing capacities; and Israel has the most advanced technologies in the world.

With the signing of the normalization agreements and expansion of cooperation with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, we at the Foreign Ministry have begun to sketch out the unprecedented opportunities that now lie before us. Bringing these opportunities into fruition will benefit the Israeli economy and create jobs by developing trilateral connections between the Gulf countries, Israel, and Asian countries. Foreign Minister Ashkenazi has set out to identify opportunities and areas of future cooperation, which will ultimately yield profits for all three sides.

Asian countries, home to immense economies, have been amongst the first to extricate themselves from the coronavirus crisis. Their manner of pandemic management and self-discipline, as well as their significant foreign currency reserves and the monetary and financial policies that they’ve implemented, have situated them amongst the upper echelon of economies that will succeed in overcoming the crisis. The RCEP trade agreement, signed on 15 November of this year between ten ASEAN countries (Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar) and China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand has effectively established the biggest free trade zone in the world, and encompasses over a third of the globe’s GNP.

The spectrum of possibilities for collaboration also spans the establishment of investment funds in the fields of security, food, medicine, smart transportation, alternative energy, the consolidation of advanced agricultural technologies for intensive crop farming, cooperation in the fields of innovative manufacturing chains and space (the UAE launched a space probe in August this year), and even three-way travel packages.

The rationale behind the program rests on a number of key pillars. The East’s superpowers and Gulf countries enjoy good relations, which began and were based historically on energy imports. Israel has a highly developed political and economic partnership with Asia, who stood with us at the outset of the coronavirus crisis and assisted Israel in acquiring equipment and raw materials. The growth of Israeli exports to Asia, and trade agreements to be signed this month with Korea and, in the foreseeable future, with India, China, and Vietnam – and hopefully with Japan and Thailand as well – are evidence of this. The triad is also ‘complementary’ in terms of each side’s proven abilities and relative advantages. Moreover, Israel enjoys a high level of esteem amongst its peers, and thanks to its technological capabilities, innovation, and relevance to the development agenda, makes significant contributions to Asia and the Gulf.

The agreements with the Gulf countries represent a political and economic breakthrough. The potential of these agreements creates unlimited possibilities for trilateral cooperation with countries in Asia, which will ultimately be for the benefit of the Israeli economy and job creation. Our goal here at the Foreign Ministry is to find a way to connect the warm relations we enjoy with countries in Asia to those that are now crystallizing with the Gulf countries, in order that we may all enjoy the fruits of peace.

About the Author
Gilad Cohen is Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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