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Kuwait, US experts hold trade talks

Kuwait Times

Kuwait, US experts hold trade talks

12 June 2007

KUNA/WASHINGTON: US-Kuwaiti trade talks kicked off yesterday at the experts level tackling a number of economic issues within the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) signed between the two countries in February 2004. A Kuwaiti delegation, headed by Assistant Undersecretary of Commerce and Industry for Foreign Trade Abdullah Al-Khaldi, that arrived in Washington late on Sunday, held a series of talks with experts at the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), including assistant USTR for Middle East Affairs Shaun Donelly.

The talks are primarily aimed at bringing the two sides into closer understanding on a number of issues related to the TIFA agreement. The TIFA agreement, signed between Kuwait and the United States in February 2004, is seen as a prelude and the first step towards negotiations over a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The Kuwaiti delegation is expected to brief the American side on a number of achievements made in Kuwait regarding economic reforms, steps that will lead up to easing up the process of trade exchange between the two countries, as stipulated in the TIFA agreement.

Other issues on the agenda of the talks will include efforts, currently being exerted by Kuwait on the issue of intellectual property rights protection. The Office of the US Trade Representative, in its annual 2005 report on Intellectual property rights (IPR), said Kuwait made progress on this and cited the creation of a special IPR unit in 2004 by Kuwait Customs to enforce copyright laws. The report also gave credit to the Ministry of Commerce for stepping up enforcement in late 2004.

But it urged Kuwait to toughen its enforcement of copyright laws even further, saying "we urge Kuwait to improve the situation by making public declarations at the highest level that piracy in Kuwait will not be tolerated." Another issue on the agenda will include an in-depth explanation of achievements made on replacing the old "standardization law" to a new law that would meet all international standards and requirements.

The Kuwaiti delegation, which also includes the economic department director at the foreign ministry, Sheikh Ali Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, is also expected to listen from the American side about the US experiences on these issues and the possibility of taking benefit of the American expertise. US officials have recently said that the US hope that open trade with Kuwait and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council will lead to a more reform policy. Along with Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and Yemen have signed TIFA agreements with US. Morocco, Jordan and Bahrain have concluded the Free Trade Agreement with the US.