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Iran says free trade pact with GCC to benefit region

Gulf News | October 16, 2007

Iran says free trade pact with GCC to benefit region

By Himendra Mohan Kumar, Staff Reporter

Abu Dhabi: A proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between Iran and the six Gulf states would help boost the regional economy, Iran’s ambassador to the UAE said yesterday.

"It would also help promote peace and security in the region and directly affect the future of the Islamic countries," Dr Hamid Reza Asefi told Gulf News. However, he said it was difficult to say when the FTA would be finalised.

"The countries will have to discuss this matter in detail. After negotiations a time-table could be set," he said.

Last month, a UAE government official confirmed to Gulf News that a ministerial panel comprising foreign ministers of the GCC had agreed to start negotiations at Iran’s request for an FTA.

Asefi said Iran’s global exports exceeded $100 billion last year and its potential for growth was enormous. Besides oil, the country is rich in agricultural products and technical knowledge and an FTA would help to optimise the use of its resources and talent.

Turning to the UAE, Asefi said Iran-UAE trade currently stands at $12 billion a year.

"This will improve in time," he said, given the strong relations between Iran and UAE. Iran, Asefi said, was exporting foodstuffs, construction materials, petrochemicals, carpets, pistachio nuts, ceramics, appliances and agricultural and industrial products to the UAE.

"From the UAE, we are currently importing cars and appliances through re-exportation and gasoline," he said.

"We are keen to boost our industrial exports and engineering services to the UAE. Our engineers are already very active here," said Asefi.

Asked about smuggling of goods from the Jebel Ali Free Zone to Iran, which comprises a major portion of Iran’s imports via the informal channel, Asefi said: "It’s negligible. American goods and appliances don’t play any important role in our economy. We prefer direct export and import."

He could not immediately provide estimated figures for goods brought into Iran informally each year from the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

 source: Gulf News