The new year will see the removal of customs duties on all products and merchandise traded between the zone's members.

"The Arab free trade zone currently includes 17 member states whose trade represents 94% of all Arab trade," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa told journalists at the league's headquarters in Cairo on Friday.

"I hope that Mauritania, Somalia, Djibouti and the Union of the Comoros will soon join," Musa said of the 22-nation bloc's members not yet part of the free trade zone.

Algeria has already begun the process of joining.

The objective of the zone is to increase inter-Arab trade as well as Arab and foreign investment in the region, which will increase growth rates and "the standard of living of Arab citizens", Musa added.