GCC, EFTA free trade zone plan on track
Manama, December 13, 2011
Bahrain's Shura Council has approved the formation of a free trade zone between the GCC and member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The zone will be established in line with the Free Trade Agreement signed between both parties in June 2009.
Free trade negotiations between EFTA and the GCC were launched in February 2006 and concluded in April 2008.
The basis for closer trade relations had been laid by a Joint Declaration on Co-operation agreed by both sides in 2000.
The free trade agreement covers a broad range of areas including trade in goods, trade in services, competition and government procurement.
Additional agreements on agricultural products between each EFTA state and the GCC form part of the instruments establishing the free trade zone.
A joint committee currently supervises the functioning of the agreement, which will enter into force after ratification.
With a combined population of more than 12 million, the EFTA is the world's ninth largest merchandise trader as well as significant actors in the areas of trade in services and foreign direct investment, according to the association.
It has concluded 18 free trade agreements with 27 partner countries outside the EU.
The bill will now be referred to His Majesty King Hamad for ratification after it was earlier approved by parliament. – TradeArabia News Service