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FTA benefits food, telco export

Straits Times | Dec 16 2008

FTA benefits food, telco export

By Fiona Chan

EXPORTERS of food and telecommunications equipment look set to be among the major beneficiaries of the new free trade agreement signed with six Gulf states on Monday.

The pact waives tariffs for 99 per cent of Singapore’s exports to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This means major savings for companies here, as only 10 per cent of exports are currently tariff-free.

Under the agreement, all imports from the GCC will also not be taxed, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said.

Firms on Tuesday said they were not clear as to all the details in the agreement, which takes effect likely next year.

But they welcomed the removal of export tariffs, saying this would encourage them to do more business with Middle Eastern countries.

Chocolate producer Aalst Chocolate, for one, expects to increase exports to all six GCC countries after the agreement comes into effect.

’The Middle East as a whole is an important sector for us, making up about 10 to 15 per cent of our business,’ said Mr Tham Ngo Hock, general manager of sales and marketing at Aalst Chocolate.

’This can probably grow to about 20 per cent after the tariffs are removed.’

 source: Straits Times