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.

 

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison

Saudi king says Palestinians have 'right' to Jerusalem

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Saudi King says determined to confront corruption

South Sudan needs $1.7 billion humanitarian aid in 2018

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

Somali journalist dies after Mogadishu bombing

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim