Khaleej Times, UAE
Azerbaijan plans FTA with UAE
By Jamila Qadir
7 April 2005
DUBAI - Azerbaijan is planning to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UAE and the rest of the Gulf countries, a top Azerbaijani government official said yesterday.
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Elmar Mamediyarov, Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is currently visiting the UAE, said that the government of Azerbaijan was currently studying the possibility of signing FTAs with the UAE and rest of the AGCC.
“We still do not know whether we will sign FTAs separately with each country or with the AGCC as a block, but this issue is on the government’s agenda,” he said.
He said the main purpose of his current visit to the UAE was to bring together the two nations to each other. “We need to expand our cooperation in economy and trade. We have already discussed investment opportunities in Azerbaijan and vice versa with the UAE minister of Trade and Planning.”
The Minister said one of the fields of possible cooperation could be the country’s energy sector. “On May 25 we are going to launch the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceihan pipeline, which will produce 50 million of crude oil per year or one million barrels per day.
Besides this contract we have signed some other contracts with various international companies. We invite all UAE companies interested in developing the Azerbaijani energy sector onshore or in the Caspian sector of the country offshore to invest in these profitable projects.”
He said despite the fact that the bilateral trade between the UAE and Azerbaijan has been steadily increasing over the last five years; the figures did not reflect the existing trade potential between the two countries. “Last year the total trade turnover between our countries touched $40 million, but the tendency in year-to-year increase in trade figures is not enough. There are much opportunities in this field that both of our countries should explore,” he suggested.
The Minister said that one of the aspects discussed with the UAE Trade and Planning Minister yesterday was the North - South Road project, where the UAE could also take part. The project, which was negotiated last year, a 132km rail link that will go all over from Azerbaijan to Georgia and up to the Turkish city of Kars, between the countries, he explained.
He said that so far countries that are part of the project include Russia, which has already ratified the agreement, Azerbaijan and Iran, which are going to do so, while Oman and India have expressed their interest towards the project. “Prior to coming to the UAE, I visited Oman and there was a lot of interest to this project from the Omani side,” he said.
He also said that the Azerbaijani legislation provides protection for foreign investments. “We have already signed agreements on foreign investments protection and avoidance of double taxation with a number of countries and we hope to sign one with the UAE before the end of this year.”