The free trade agreement between Iraq and Egypt, which calls for the end to all customs barriers between the two countries, is now in force, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mahdi Al-Saleh stressed Monday, February 19.
"The agreement Iraq signed with its brother Egypt for the creation of a free trade zone between the two countries is in place," Saleh said at the beginning of talks with Egyptian Economy Minister Yusef Butros Ghali.
"Instructions have been given to Iraqi customs to exempt Egyptian products coming into Iraq from all taxes and tariffs," Saleh said, quoted by the official INA news agency. "The importance of this accord is that it is without precedent ... and will lead to the development in bilateral trade and economic relations," he said.
Butros Ghali, who arrived in Baghdad on Sunday, February 18, with 180 business representatives to promote trade between the two countries, said the agreement would help "increase investment and development with Iraqi companies in both the public and private sectors."
The free trade accord was signed on January 18 in Cairo by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, in the highest-ranking official Iraqi visit to Cairo since the 1991 Gulf war. Relations between Baghdad and Cairo, which was part of the US-led coalition that ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait, have greatly improved over the past two years.
Egypt now exports $1.2 billion worth of goods a year to Iraq, more than to any country other than the United States.
Iraq has also signed free trade agreements with Jordan and Syria, and has urged all Arab countries to seal similar deals with it. The signing of such agreements was seen as a further sign of the erosion of the strict UN sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. — (AFP, Baghdad)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )