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GCC-EU free trade talks in final stages

The Peninsula, Qatar, 4/13/2006

GCC-EU free trade talks in final stages

Doha: The Gulf states all set to have a common market by 2007, GCC secretary general, H E Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, said yesterday.

Plans to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) are in the final states of negotiation. Talks for an FTA deal with the EU have been on for the past 17 years, said Al Attiyah.

The GCC member countries hope to conclude a series of free trade agreements with a number of countries, including India, China and Turkey, over the next two years. "We are working towards setting up a common market by the 2007 deadline and confident of achieving the goal without delay," said Al Attiyah.

He was talking to reporters after addressing the conference on democracy and free trade at the Doha Sheraton yesterday.

The member countries have faced a lot of difficulties and challenges, including the two wars that were fought in the region, but plans to have the common market are proceeding as scheduled.

Al Attiyah said that talks for setting up a common regional market were on for the past 25 years.

The financial and economic committee of the member states would meet and discuss the technicalities of the proposed common market in detail.

The GCC foreign ministers would meet subsequently and approve the proposals of the financial and economic committee regarding the common market.

As regards the common currency, the region will have one by January 2010 and with it will come a single regional central bank.

Al Attiyah earlier spoke at 6th Doha Forum on Democracy Development and Free Trade on ’Models of Economic Cooperation and Integration’ and referred to the above issues in some detail. The session was moderated by Dr Hazim Al Bablawi, advisor to the Arab Monetary Fund, Abu Dhabi.

Aside from Al Attiyah, speakers included Prof Erik Jones, from the University of John Hopkins, Italy; Prof Paola Subacchi, director of World Economic Programme, London, Daniel Hanna, from StanChart Bank, Doha; and Prof Surya Subedi, from Leeds University, UK.

Prof Subacchi highlighted the differences between the GCC and the EU in her talk, while Prof Subedi spoke of the weaknesses of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Al Bablawi while introducing the subject and the guests to the audience, suggested that the GCC states must take advantage of the present economic boom and spend wisely on infrastructure development. "These countries have abundant oil resources but no water. I think it would be prudent if they spent on research effort to augment water resources as also on developing solar energy as an alternative since their hydrocarbon reserves are not going to last for ever," said Al Bablawi.

 source: The Peninsula