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UAE, US make progress on free trade agreement

UAE, US Make Progress on Free Trade Agreement

Arab News - 24/05/2005

SHARJAH, 24 May 2005 - Negotiations between the UAE and the US on a free trade agreement (FTA) are making progress. Two more rounds of discussions should produce the final draft of an accord, according to a senior US official.

US assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance, William H. Lash III, did not specify any deadline on when the agreement would be signed.

"We think two more rounds of talks will be needed," he told a press conference in Abu Dhabi. "FTAs are complicated and not just about lowering tariffs. A lot of the industrial, services and other issues have to be discussed. I think these issues with the UAE will be resolved as with any other sophisticated partner. Both the sides are keen to keep the momentum going," he said.

The next round of talks will probably be held in late June or early July and will be conducted by videoconference from the two countries’ capitals. The two sides completed the first round of talks in March this year and the second round in Washington earlier this month. The UAE is the US’ third largest trading partner in the Middle East.

Non-oil trade between the UAE and the US is some $5 billion currently with exports from the US totaling $4 billion while imports from the UAE are valued around $1 billion.

Lash, who is on a visit to the UAE, said the private sector would continue to be involved in the negotiations as it needs to be aware of the FTA. "The private sector should know about the FTA negotiations and we are involving them in the US and here," he said.

Lash said the FTA would be mutually beneficial for both the UAE and the US as it would change their status from mere trading partners to "brothers and allies with shared markets and shared opportunities." He pointed out that the FTA would succeed in cementing economic ties between the two countries.

American investment in the UAE, which currently is about $1.4 billion, will increase substantially once an FTA is in place, he said. The US was also keen on more UAE investments in the US as well as more joint ventures between American and UAE businessmen, which the FTA can facilitate.

Lash said in talks with senior officials of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) and with members of the Abu Dhabi-based American Business Group, that he received a very enthusiastic feedback about the FTA and the great opportunities it would provide for the private sector in the US and UAE markets.

 source: Arab News