Gulf News | December 15, 2008
First GCC trade accord signed with Singapore
Dubai : The six Gulf oil producers on Monday signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore, the first-ever FTA, a statement said.
"The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Singapore FTA (GSFTA), the first-ever FTA for the GCC, in a key step forward for economic relations between Singapore and its 7th largest trading partner," the statement said.
The GCC and Singapore agreed to enhance cooperation in the air services sector. Such cooperation may include, among other things, concluding air services agreements between one or more of the GCC countries and Singapore.
The GCC currently accounts for 40 per cent of Singapore’s oil imports. Bilateral trade with the GCC, comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, reached a record high of S$42.4 billion (Dh105.45 billion) in 2007, a 127 per cent increase since 2002.
The agreement was signed in Doha between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his GCC counterparts, President-in-Office of the GCC Ministerial Council and Qatar Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad bin Jasem Al Thani, and GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah.
The GSFTA is a comprehensive free trade agreement covering areas including trade in goods, trade in services, investments, rules of origin, customs procedures, government procurement, electronic commerce, and economic cooperation.
The agreement will grant tariff-free access for about 99 per cent of Singapore’s domestic exports, worth about S$3.1 billion in 2007. All GCC goods entering into Singapore will also be granted tariff-free access.
The GSFTA will also encourage a greater recognition of Singapore’s halal standards in the six-member Arab trade group. The GCC countries have committed to either recognise or begin talks to recognise the Singapore Muis Halal Standards (SMHS) as consistent and compliant with similar standards in their countries.
Recognition of SMHS by the GCC countries will not only facilitate trade in halal product exports to the GCC, but will also provide greater assurance to Gulf visitors that their dietary requirements will be met when they visit Singapore.
The GSFTA allows Singapore-based companies and Singapore Permanent Residents to hold majority stakes in key sectors of the GCC markets. In particular, Singapore gained enhanced access in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for construction services, computer services, environmental services and professional services.
GCC countries are committed to signing bilateral Investment Guarantee Agreements (IGAs) with Singapore in order to better protect the investments of our businessmen in each other’s countries.