First Published: 2013-01-22

 

Riyadh Summit: Arab free trade zone begins with laws' amendment

 

Arab leaders pledge to remove obstacles to finalising free trade zone this year, agree to facilitate capital flows.

 

Middle East Online

Level of Arab-Arab trade fails to match ambitions

RIYADH – Arab leaders pledged to remove obstacles to finalising a free trade zone this year and agreed to facilitate capital flows, as they wrapped up an economic summit in Riyadh on Tuesday.

"We stress our determination to complete all the prerequisites of (forming) the free trade area before the end of this year," Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said at the end of the third Arab Economic and Social Summit.

The leaders, he added, were determined to clear obstacles to "achieve the Arab customs union fully by 2015."

Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said officials working to facilitate a customs union were struggling to sort out rules on the origin of goods.

"We still have problems with the issue of country of origin... in order to establish which goods are from Arab countries and the percentage of foreign components," he told reporters.

The regulations of the customs union stipulate that exempted goods should have at least 40 percent local components.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders agreed amendments proposed to strengthen the flow of capital and investments between countries, Arabi said.

The Arab League leader's assistant for economic affairs, Mohammed al-Tuwaijri, had described investment laws in Arab countries as a "repellent for investments".

He also highlighted "significant deficiencies" in the 1980 common agreement over capital movement.

"We should achieve an Arab common market," said Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the opening of the third Arab Economic and Social Development summit, urging Arab nations to "catch up" in the realm of free trade.

"Very little has been done to improve trade between Arab countries," which reportedly comprises no more than 10 percent of total Arab commerce.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who stood in for ailing King Abdullah in hosting the summit, highlighted economic and social challenges facing the region and also pointed to weak inter-Arab trade.

"The urgent development issues that face our countries are very difficult, including poverty, unemployment and disease. Efforts must be made to confront and eliminate them," he said.

"The level of trade between us does not match our ambitions."

The 22 Arab states have a total population of more than 367 million, but total Arab gross domestic product represents no more than three percent of global gross domestic product.

The Arab region sits on 62 percent of the world's crude oil reserves and its oil-producing nations export 32 percent of total global exports.

The area is also home to 24 percent of the world's natural gas reserves. But Arab gas exports represented only 5.8 percent of global exports in 2010.

 

Horse-trading begins as Tunisia awaits formation of new government

Jihadists flock to fight on ‘unprecedented scale’

UK court says Libyan Abdul-Hakim Belhaj can sue over rendition

Syria accuses Turkey of ‘flagrant violation of sovereignty’

Global campaign to end female genital mutilation kicks off

US to examine troops exposed to chemicals in Iraq

African Union hits back at Somalia rape claims

New scare in Turkey as ‘suspect packages’ found

‘Insults against Netanyahu’ cause embarrassment to US

Kuwait online activist gets four years in jail for insulting judges

Heavy fighting in South Sudan sparks fears of humanitarian catastrophe

Sweden officially recognises State of Palestine

Egypt jails retired general for damaging national security

Israel closes al-Aqsa mosque to worshipers in rare move

Gaza civil servants receive delayed salaries

After US criticism, Israel vows no concessions to Palestinians

Libya internationally recognised PM opens doors of dialogue with rivals

Huthi rebels seize stronghold of Muslim Brotherhood in central Yemen

Will Nidaa Tounes shun Islamists in Tunisia government formation?

Egypt starts work on buffer zone along border with Gaza

Turkey Sultan unveils new palace: Another break with symbols of secular state

Heavy toll as ‘Islamic State’ fights for control of Syria oil field

Iran President suffers fresh setback with rejection of Science Minister

Nuclear deal or no deal: ‘Red lines’ lay bare internal divisions in Iran

Heavy security in Mogadishu as UN chief meets Somalia president

Fighters from Free Syrian Army leave Turkey to join Kobane battle

Israel denies banning Palestinians sharing buses

Kurd fighters leave northern Iraq base for Syria deployment

Jordan requests UN emergency meeting over Israel settler expansion

Jerusalem Mayor visits Al-Aqsa mosque prompting anger

Tunisia reinforces commitment to democracy with ‘transparent’ elections

Turkey ‘decides’ for Kobane future: No Kurds, no Assad... Only Free Syrian Army!

Bahrain suspends Al-Wefaq weeks before parliamentary elections

Huge game changer in Tunisia: ‘In-credible’ failure of Islamist Ennahda Party

Libya PM in Khartoum for talks with Bashir

PKK hijack truck seizing explosive substance

Saudi lawyers get jail time for offensive tweets

Ennahda concedes defeat in Tunisia parliamentary elections

Syria rebels launch assault on regime-held city of Idlib

Iraq peshmerga wait for Turkey stance to depart for Syria

Sisi enacts military trials decree to cover ‘existential threat’

US calls for online war against ‘Islamic State’

Donors pledge $8 billion for Horn of Africa

Acid attacks in Iran: Deputy of Judiciary Chief to lead investigation

Lebanon army enters Islamist stronghold in Tripoli