Ministry of Foreign Trade joins GCC discussions in Geneva
February 11, 2010
A UAE delegation led by the Ministry of Foreign Trade (MoFT) participated in a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting held from February 1 to 5, 2010 at the Kuwait commissariat in Geneva, Switzerland. Other Gulf Cooperation Council members were also on hand to discuss a WTO draft to facilitate trade. The UAE representatives also joined an Arab Group session on February 3, 2010, which focused on updates to the Doha Development Round and the WTO’s participation in the Davos forum.
The UAE delegation was headed by Mr. Sultan Darwish, Director of Trade Negotiations & WTO Department at MoFT, and included representatives from the UAE Office in the WTO, the Federal Customs Authority, and Abu Dhabi Customs. The meeting discussed the results of a special study on trade in non-agricultural goods with the aim of determining the appropriate coefficient to reduce bound tariffs; the expected effects of the Gulf law on dumping; countervailing measures; and sectoral initiatives undertaken by GCC countries under the Doha Development Agenda.
Darwish explained that the Gulf-centered meeting was in preparation for a broader WTO forum devoted to discussing the Agreement's draft as well as its revision and development in order to reach compatible formulas and endorse it as one of the outputs of the Doha Development Round. He noted that the participants explored ways to coordinate the GCC’s overall position towards the drafting of the agreement, which covers international trade in goods through provisions based on three GATT 1994 articles, namely Article V on transit transport; Article VIII on import and export fees and procedures; and Article X on transparency and dissemination of trade legislations. He added that the group thoroughly studied the technical aspects of the Agreement as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
Darwish said that the MoFT has been reviewing the contents of the Agreement through several meetings and workshops held in coordination with the Federal Customs Authority and local customs departments. This, he said, was followed by a GCC-level workshop held recently in Muscat which led to an assessment of the compatibility of legislation and practices applied by the region’s states with the requirements of the Agreement.
Moreover, he said that most of the policies in force within the Gulf region conform to the requirements of the agreement, as ascertained by the Secretariat of the GCC countries who has examined the draft and compared it with GCC-wide procedures. Darwish explained that this affirmed the interest of GCC members in the agreement and its vital role in improving the operations of ports and harbors as well as developing the Gulf’s commercial trade and economy.
Darwish mentioned that the special study prepared by the GCC Secretariat identifies several options for coefficient values associated with the preferred flexibilities of members of the WTO to cut bound tariffs. He noted that GCC members will have to agree on a single option covering transactions linked to customs federation and unified tariff. He added that a number of GCC countries have made sectoral initiatives to reduce customs duties or discharge environmentally friendly goods, gas products, and raw materials.
The draft on facilitating trade agreement is one of the outputs of the Doha Development Agenda, which aims to quicken and ease the flow of trade in goods across borders. The Agenda seeks commitments from customs and other authorities to apply best practices, procedures and techniques to ensure rapid clearance of goods and speedy transit via borders and customs posts. It also aims to ensure transparency in disseminating and applying policies and administrative decisions that govern and affect the movement of goods as well as their means of transport.
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