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Businessmen air view on UAE’s FTA talks with US

Khaleej Times, Dubai

Businessmen air view on UAE’s FTA talks with US

4 April 2005

DUBAI - "The UAE business sector should be represented and should be given the opportunity to have its say in the on going negotiations with the United States for a free trade agreement especially that whatever would be the outcome of the agreement would have their direct impact on businessmen."
"A higher supervisory committee included members from the government and others who represent businessmen should be formed to enable best possible benefits from the free trade agreement which is likely to be signed during this year and according to which the UAE will be a strategic alliance partner to the US."

These were some of the comments which were made during Al Mash’had Dubai TV programme, broadcasted on Saturday evening during which representatives from the business and the academic segments have discussed the strong debated issue, the agreement, including real objectives behind it, probable local and regional advantages and disadvantages and the UAE’s readiness for signing such agreement.

The speakers stressed the need to have a strong negotiatory team to help maintain the UAE’s decision making, sovereignty, objectives and welfare in the hands of the UAE nationals in all fields and to ensure its just being a bilateral agreement.

"Unfortunately, information about the first phase of the negotiations were been hidden from the concerned sectors and the general public. This was unlike the US team that has discussed topics with the relevant sectors before and after the first phase’ negotiations," said Hussain Al Nowais, a businessman who added, "However, this shortcoming does not reflect a lack of trust in the UAE negotiatory team. But, I rather call for allowing and enabling discussions with the relevant sectors as such would help to concur better results for the UAE.

National businessmen opt to get information they wanted from the US delegation, noted Al Nowais who called for holding symposiums to enlighten and get the opinion of the different national sectors.

Especially that the agreement requires from the UAE changing its companies laws and that such a change would have direct impact on the investment atmosphere in the country, businessmen should be made aware of what is going on whether the changes would positively or negatively affect their businesses, stressed Dr Abdul Razzaq Fares, Economy professor at the UAE university.

"If companies laws were been amended to meet the agreement’s requirements, this means that the American investor will be entitled for a100 per cent ownership. As well, he will be entitled for advantages and benefits granted by the UAE government to the UAE national, " he said adding that this will definitely affect the business of nationals which are currently being faced with strong competition because of the foreign investments been allowed at the Free Zones.

Despite probable disadvantages, the agreement will open the USA market before the UAE, said Dr Mohammed bin Hweiden. "The magnitude of the business will be huge considering that the USA imports reported$1.8 trillion and that 23 per cent of the world trade and one third of the world product is in the hands of the US," he elaborated.

Highlighting the strength of the American negotiation team, Dr Abdul Khaleq said that the Americans have set up their objectives and made goals out of the agreement. " Fifteen committees wee been formed to negotiate the agreement’s different topics. The agreement’s terms were been classified under the USA’s priority topics, " he said stressing, "We should negotiate to just attract investments which will have added value to our economy. We should negotiate to attract American investments, which offer quality of jobs to our nationals. Technology, IT and communication could fields for foreign investments."

The UAE negotiator should be sharp and capable of bargaining for the country’s economic priorities, added Dr Abdul Khaleq.