Arab Economic Council to expand Arab Trade Free Zone to include services

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A high-level UAE delegation, led by His Excellency Mohammed Al Shihhi, Director General of the MoE, attended the 83rd meeting of the Arab Socio Economic Council, held in Cairo on February 12 and 13, 2009. The meeting was attended by Arab ministers and senior economy officials.

The Arab Socio Economic Council discussed a number of socio-economic issues to be included in the agenda of the Arab Economic Summit to be held in Doha  in end-March 2009. It also debated ways of implementing the recommendations of the Arab Economic Social and Development Summit held in Kuwait and proper mechanisms for implementation.

The Council studied the latest developments regarding the Arab Free Trade Zone, in the light of obstacles to its inception resulting from non-customs practices in some Arab countries. This discussion holds special importance as the Council looks forward to establishing the Arab Customs Union, reflecting the decisions taken at the Kuwait Summit, which fixed 2015 as the deadline to achieve the Arab Customs Union Agreement.

The discussions stressed on eliminating all obstacles and expand the Free Trade Zone to include services in addition to products and commodities trade, and thus enable the Arab World to move forward to the Arab Customs Union plan and the Common Arab Market.

The participants discussed the UAE’s recommendation to implement the policy of “open skies” between Arab countries that will strengthen air freight movement resulting in energizing Arab economic cooperation, expanding trade exchange and enhancing tourism to the Arab World.

The Arab Socio Economic Council members agreed to hold a preparatory meeting for the Doha Summit in the third week of March to review the Summit’s agenda of discussions, which includes implementation mechanisms of the Kuwait Summit’s recommendations.

The Council agreed to provide technical support to the less developed Arab Countries and build its capabilities. It also decided to exempt Palestinian products from custom charges and taxes as per the decision of the Arab Summit and approved the main discipline of the Arab Investment Court. The meeting also agreed to publish research related to price rise of essential commodities and its impact on Arab Nationals.

The Council decided to channel the draft agreement on multi-transport of merchandise to the Permanent Committee of Legal Affairs for further study. The committee will send it the League Council for approval on the constitutional system of the Ministerial Council. Finally, it will be sent to the Arab League Council in its next session.

The Socio Economic Council evaluated preparations for the Arab Economic Forum in Tokyo, in addition to a number of special reports including that related to the seventh meeting of Civil Society Organisations and the Arab Ministers’ Council meeting regarding environment affairs and Arab Transport Council.

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