GCC single market by 2007

Haseeb Haider
Filed on December 20, 2005

ABU DHABI — Taking up a comprehensive economic agenda that would transform the oil-rich GCC into a formidable economic powerhouse, the six-nation Gulf Summit concluded yesterday by setting a two-year timeframe to remove all hurdles in the way of forming a common market.

The GCC leaders, in their closed door sessions, gave a big push to efforts aimed at greater economic integration, by agreeing to have a unified trade policy that will bind them into a single entity, internally as well as externally, by December 2007.

The leaders also reviewed a variety of economic issues and came out in unison for creating an economic alliance to consolidate their development and prosperity. Until now, the road to economic integration has been hampered by disagreements and difference of views.

The council meeting in its landmark decisions endorsed a unified trade policy of the bloc which aims at integrating foreign trade policy and to bargain with international economies as "a single entity," for better trade gains, concessions and protecting the domestic economies.

It gave its resounding approval to adopting a unified internal trade policy regime that would facilitate the free movement of GCC nationals, human capital, goods, services and vehicles.

The committee also strongly supported the objectives of the Customs Union by recognising the positive impact it would create on the national economies of the member states as well as the regional level, with free trade taking place.

The GCC Council also approved exemptions from customs duty and other levies on 52 nationally produced items including cement.

The meeting accepted a proposal, which will allow GCC nationals to set up employment bureaus, rent-a-car outlet business and promote cultural activities in each other countries.

It reviewed the report prepared by the Financial and Fiscal Affairs Committee of the AGCC and governors of central banks of the six member states and instructed them to determine the benchmarks, economic indicators and other parameters on whose basis the uphill task of a Gulf economic bloc will be built.

On the matters relating to linking the region by a 1,968 kilometres long railway network, the council considering its significance and gave its blessing to make the previously elusive project a reality which will facilitate trade and will provide a cheaper means of transportation, further boosting tourism.

The GCC Summit also reviewed the progress on the on-going negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union and hoped that it would be concluded next year to open avenues of foreign direct investment, trade exchanges, access to each other’s market besides transfer of much needed technology and know-how.

The summit attached importance to the initiatives of establishing GCC's free trade zones with Turkey and China, which would help greater access to the bigger markets.

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