GCC row over trade pacts resolved

The Gulf states have resolved differences on the issue of unilateral trade pacts with the United States, Aljazeera reports.

    Al-Attiyah (L) said the GCC states had discussed free trade

    Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abd al-Rahman al-Attiyah on Saturday confirmed earlier reports that the GCC member states had resolved their differences on the signing of unilateral free trade pacts with the US.

     

    He said the GCC Finance and Economic Cooperation Committee, which comprised the finance ministers in the six GCC states, had discussed and reached an agreement on the issue.

     

    "The issue would not be taken up during the GCC Consultative Summit, set to be held in Riyadh on Saturday," he added.

     

    According to some reports, the agreement signed by Bahrain envisaged exempting US imports from the 5% customs duties levied by the GCC states on goods from the rest of the world.

     

    Sole exception

     

    Earlier in the week, agency reports quoting an unnamed Gulf source, said Gulf Arab finance ministers had agreed that duty-free US imports would be exempted from their unified tariff system, signalling accepting that they could not stop bilateral

    free trade deals with Washington.

     

    "The principle has been accepted that the United States - and only the United States - is given that exemption," the source said.

       

    "The principle has been accepted that the United States - and only the United States - is given that exemption"

    Unnamed Gulf official

    The source said the agreement by finance ministers in early May to accommodate individual accords with the US would be presented to foreign ministers of the six-nation GCC for approval on 4 June.

       

    The decision marked a climbdown by regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which was angered when neighbouring GCC member Bahrain signed a free trade accord with the US in September 2004.

     

    In the meantime, the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates opened negotiations to sign similar agreements with the US, prompting Riyadh to give up its reservations.  

       

    The two other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are Qatar and Kuwait.

       

    The Gulf source added that a technical committee will look into practical ways to accommodate individual deals reached with Washington without undermining the GCC customs union, under which the six member states plan to dismantle customs posts on their joint borders.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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