GCC, EU ink free trade agreement
Abu Dhabi, June 27, 2009
Gulf Co-operation Council said it has signed the free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) to bring in trade liberalization and promote investment opportunities and partnership between the two sides.
GCC secretary-general Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah and Sheikh Ghazi Bin Said Al-Bahar Al-Rawas of Oman, which heads the council of ministers of the GCC, said the deal was signed on the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference of the 'EFTA' countries held on June 22 in the city of Hammer, Norway.
The EFTA comprises Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Commenting on the development, Juma Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kait, executive director for Foreign Trade Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade, who headed the trade services negotiations team for GCC, said the landmark agreement was signed after extensive negotiations which started in February 2006 and went on till April 2008.
He said that the agreement covers areas such as commercial trade, exchange of services, intellectual property protection, governmental purchases, and methodology for arbitrating conflicts.
In addition, the agreement seeks economic partnership through investments and the reduction of customs duties on most goods exchanged by both sides, especially agricultural goods.
The pact is aimed at bringing in trade liberalization and promoting investment opportunities and partnership between the two sides, said Al Kait.
With regard to the trade in services, the agreement will improve the access to markets and open up sectors that are of interest to both sides.
The agreement will also provide an opportunity for companies from both regions to participate in government tenders within a framework of transparency in procedures and in accordance with specific regulations.
The UAE is the sixth major partner of the EFTA in terms of the volume of bilateral trade, which reached $8.7 billion in 2008, the officials pointed out.
It is expected that this agreement will further increase the volume of bilateral trade and investment between the two sides, as the rapid economic growth rates of the Gulf countries will enhance investment opportunities for companies in the two regions.-TradeArabia News Service