Saudi Arabia gets closer to WTO membership
World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy has welcomed the conclusion of the Working Party negotiations on the accession of Saudi Arabia. “This is a very important step in Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO. I am glad to see that the tremendous amount of work done by Saudi Arabia has now brought it closer to WTO entry. We look forward to confirmation by the General Council in the days to come,” he said.
The Working Party on the accession of Saudi Arabia was established on 21 July 1993. Bilateral market access negotiations on goods and services are underway on the basis of revised offers. Multilateral discussions on the terms of entry are ongoing and the latest revision of the draft Report of the Working Party was circulated in June 2004. The last meeting of the Working Party was held in June 2004.
According to Arab News, the talks have lasted more than a decade partly because of Saudi fears that WTO free trading rules would limit Saudi Arabia’s right to restrict imports of goods prohibited under Islam, including pork, alcohol and pornography.
WTO accession is expected to boost foreign investment in the Kingdom, providing funds for diversification of the largely oil-based economy, and bring new export opportunities for Saudi firms, especially in the petrochemical industry.