Jordan Times - 23/05/2006
Arab agricultural engineers review effects of free trade zone
AMMAN - The Arab Agricultural Engineers Union (AAEU) on Monday convened its 16th technical conference to discuss "Agricultural Integration under the Establishment of Greater Arab Free Trade Zone."
The zone, which came into effect in late 2005, includes 18 member states and represents 94 per cent of all Arab trade.
"For 10 years, member states reduced customs duties by 10 per cent, and in 2005 the duty free trade went into effect," AAEU Secretary General Yahya Bakour told The Jordan Times following the conference’s opening ceremony.
The four-day event will address the effects of the free trade zone on agricultural investment in Arab countries, in addition to its role in increasing agricultural exports.
"The Arab Free Trade Zone is one step towards achieving a full customs union," Minister of Agriculture Akef Zu’bi said, pledging Jordan would support joint action.
"Agriculture cannot be developed in Arab countries without integration and cooperation between them," he added.
In tomorrow’s session participants will discuss the zone’s impact on inter-Arab commercial exchange with Jordan, Syria and Lebanon as an example.
"This conference gathers Arab experts and scientists who will discuss developments in this field and learn from Jordan’s agricultural experience," Bakour said.
"We hope we will reach decisions and recommendations that will help reach Arab agricultural partnership," he added.
Bakour also said Arab countries would not be able meet the needs of their citizens without reaching a degree of self-sufficiency.
According to Abdul Hadi Falahat, president of the Jordanian Agricultural Engineers Union, which organised the conference, "although Arab countries failed in achieving a comprehensive union, they have reached some agreements such as the free trade zone, which includes agricultural products."
"We hope the time of hampering the flow of products traded between Arab countries will end. When we reach this, we will be on the right track," he said.
The conference will hold its closing session on Thursday and present its recommendations.