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Envoy says FTA talks to continue

Gulf News 21/02/2007

Envoy says FTA talks to continue

By Ahmed A. Elewa, Staff Reporter

Abu Dhabi: The UAE and the United States have confirmed that the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will continue, officials said.

"The talks are not suspended. What happened is that the documentation will not be ready by the March 31 deadline," US Ambassador Michele J. Sison told Gulf News yesterday.

March 31 is the deadline imposed by Congress if the deal is to be considered under President George W Bush’s trade negotiating authority, which expires at the end of June.

"The president has already applied for a renewal of his authority to sign such agreements at the new Congress," Sison added, explaining that the issue is not suspending the negotiations, but changing the timeframe set earlier.

"Both countries are committed to the negotiations," Dr Mohammad Khalfan Bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs, said earlier.

With the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement revived, officials of both countries will meet in the spring to discuss the framework as well as the FTA.

The US Trade Representative Office (USTR) told Gulf News that there were difficulties in reaching a breakthrough in relation to the investment chapter of the agreement.

"The reports referring to the suspension of the talks due to difficulties in some of the chapters are only headlines, as we are still committed to these negotiations," Sason said.

Investment chapter

The investment chapter remains the source of the delays in signing the agreement, according to a US trade official. "We made significant progress during the past six months in relation to core issues, but we haven’t reached any break-through in relation to the investment chapter in particular," a member of the US negotiating team from the USTR told Gulf News in an interview last week.

The next round of talks will take place in spring, probably by April, although the exact timing and location have not been set.

 source: Gulf News