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.

 

UN Syria peace talks begin in Geneva

Israel to deny Human Rights Watch visas for being ‘biased’

Iraqi forces enter IS-held west Mosul

Suicide bomb attack on rebels kills 51 near Al-Bab

Marrakesh clinches top ranking of African urban life

UN considers Syria sanctions over chemical attacks

Saudi Comic-Con slammed as ‘sin’ in online backlash

Jordanians protest government price hikes

Baghdad coordinated anti-IS airstrikes with Damascus says source

New Hamas Gaza leader makes first public appearance

Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli soldiers in West Bank

Jordanian F-16 crashes in Saudi, pilot survives

Iraqi PM says air force strikes IS targets in Syria

UN slams light sentence for Israeli soldier

Saudi king seeks investment on rare Asia tour

Saudi minister discusses hajj with Iran

136 Turkish diplomats, soldiers seek German asylum since coup

New Hamas ‘strongman’ could spell fresh Israeli conflict

Suicide car bomb kills eight outside Yemen army base

Fired Turkish academics protest ‘unjust’ dismissals

Iraqi forces jovial after Mosul airport entry

Syrian rebels announce capture of flashpoint town from IS

Iraqi forces enter IS-held Mosul airport

Swedish citizen jailed for IS Facebook post

Somalia names new prime minister

Netanyahu backs pardon for Israel soldier who shot Palestinian

UN envoy meets Syrian rivals, hopes of breakthrough slim

Yemeni government forces pin back rebels on coast

Israeli Supreme Court appoints deeply right-wing judges

Hundreds of Australians protest Netanyahu

Yemen rebel fire kills policeman on Saudi border

UN condemns Israel's new West Bank demolition plans

UN envoy says Russia asked Syria to halt bombing during talks

Bahrain arrests 20, approves military trials for civilians

Israel blocks EU lawmakers from Gaza entry

Syrian migrant on trial in Austria over 20 murders

UN says rapes, killings still blight Darfur

Yemen president says Saudi saving $10 bn for reconstruction

Top Yemen commander killed in missile strike

New Somali president says ability to deal with nation's problems 'limited'

Israel lifts ban on basketball team playing in Turkey

Arab League condemns Israeli soldier’s lenient sentence

Turkey lifts ban on Islamic headscarves in army

Israeli ministry orders removal of Haifa ammonia tank

Iraqi forces ready for assault on Mosul airport