The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are moving in the right direction ahead of the implementation of the GCC customs union on January 1, according to Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the UAE’s minister of economy.
“One of the biggest challenges is the issue of the customs,” he said. “I think they have made practical steps in addressing these issues and how to redistribute the custom fees between the GCC countries.”
He was speaking on the sidelines of the 15th edition of the GCC Joint Exhibition and Conference, which was opened at Expo Centre Sharjah on Monday by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.
The long-delayed GCC customs union, which was first launched in 2003, is expected to facilitate trade between the members of the GCC and boost investments within the region.
The GCC countries have agreed on the mechanism for distributing customs revenue, among other points of the agenda. They have been discussing completing requirements for the GCC common market and monetary union, which have been rescheduled.
Trade between the GCC countries stood at $92 billion (Dh338 billion) in 2013, which is expected to grow by “five per cent” this year, Al Mansouri said.
According to Saif Mohammad Al Midfa, chief executive of Expo Centre Sharjah, GCC countries have expressed the need for achieving economic integration.
“This will help streamline the flow of goods, labor, capital and services within the region,” he said.
The council is looking to promote collaborative initiatives and economic and social integration among the GCC countries, Al Mansouri said.
“This is a crucial mandate that needs urgent action for GCC companies to compete with global conglomerates that are seeking to meet their own interests,” he said.
Trade between the UAE and GCC, meanwhile, is likely to grow by “five to six” per cent this year over 2013, he said.
The industrial sector is among the region’s important sectors, which according to Al Mansouri, accounts for “10-12 per cent” of the GCC’s gross national product (GNP).
The GCC relies heavily on commodity exports. Commodities account for 86.8 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s total goods exports by value and almost two thirds of the UAE’s.
Establishing common laws and regulations for doing business in the region has become an area of focus, according to Al Mansouri.
“One of the initiatives that we have taken for some time now is the development of laws and regulations governing doing business in the GCC,” he said. “For example, the industrial laws, investment laws — all these common laws that we need to establish and have set up within the six GCC countries to be able to facilitate all the businesses of trade, investment and many others.”
Trade in the UAE and the region is expected to get a boost with the hosting of the World Expo 2020, a six-month event, in Dubai. The emirate’s foreign trade is expected to reach Dh4 trillion by hosting the Expo.
“Expo 2020 will bring a lot of people who will be first comers to the UAE, who will learn and understand the potential of doing business in the UAE and GCC,” Al Mansouri said. “I expect more and more businesses to be established here.”
The GCC Joint Exhibition and Conference, which is organised by the UAE Ministry of Economy, attracted more than 200 exhibitors, including 70 from the UAE, and will run until Friday. The exhibitors were from different industries, such as food and beverage and steel.