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American Business Council welcomes FTA with US

A Staff Reporter
Filed on September 22, 2005

DUBAI Welcoming the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between the US and the UAE, Anis Nassar, president of the American Business Council (ABC) in Dubai said the move would help increase the economical potential of the Emirates.

Speaking to Khaleej Times at the new venue of the ABC in Al Barsha last Wednesday, he said the agreement, expected to be signed by the end of 2005, would function as a peaceful tool to prevent terrorism and extremism by creating better environment and life conditions for people and, should therefore, be supported by all Arab nations."

The ABC, a non-profit organisation, aimed to "smoothen business relations between the US and the UAE", is the largest support group for UAE nationals and American expatriots. It has celebrated its 20th birthday this year.

The UAE, third largest US trading partner in the region with exports of $1.1 billion and imports reaching $4.1billions in 2004, will be the second AGCC country after Bahrain to sign the FTA a pact with the long term goal of creating a free trade area that eliminates tariffs and expands trade in both goods and services between the countries.

The agreement, which has been completed in the 9/11 comission report, urges the US to expand trade with the middle east countries as a toll in the war against terrorism. The agreement has caused a lot of controversy since it is viewed by its critics as a bilateral pact between the US and smaller countries and not a regional measurement. Bahrain, which signed the FTA last year, has been scrutinised especially by Saudi Arabia, claiming that the bilateral negotiation violates a joint GCC tariff pact. Despite these concerns the UAE finalizes its talks concerning the pact, which would lead to liberalizations especially in the banking and financial sectors, which highly discriminate foreign institutions due to current legislations.

Jordan, which was the first Arab country to sign in 2001, has increased its exports to the US by 54 per cent in 2003, rising from $430 million to $660 million. Yet experts ruled out that the main increase of exports were products of the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs), joint Jordanian- Israeli businesses that combine Israeli capital with low Jordanian labor costs. According to popular economist and columnist Fahd Fanke, the "FTA agreement has failed to help the Jordanian economy. The traditional, non QIZ industries are unable to compete with other exporters in the American market," he told Arab news.

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