Heads of state from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) signed a customs and monetary union agreement Monday, December 31, in a bid to forge a weighty economic bloc. The GCC customs union is expected to open the way for the long-awaited Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU), the region's biggest trading partner.
The accord advances the date for implementing a unified five percent customs tariff to January 2003, after a previous agreement had set the start date to 2005. A single currency system is scheduled to materialize in January 2010, confirmed the closing statement of the GCC’s annual summit held in Muscat, Oman.
The new deal replaces an economic agreement, signed in 1981 with the founding of the GCC. The regional bloc—including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE)—collectively holds nearly half of the world's oil reserves and 18 percent of the world's gas.
The GCC summit also decided on a step-by-step membership procedure for Yemen, reported Ath-Thawra. Yemen, which has long sought entry to the oil-rich bloc, accepted the Council’s offer to join several non-political bodies of the GCC, as a first step towards full membership. — (menareport.com)
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