US puts UAE free trade deal on ice

Emirates Business 24/7 | December 23,2007

US puts UAE free trade deal on ice

by Safura Rahimi

Free trade negotiations between the US and the UAE will not be resumed under the current US Administration, trade bodies have said.

According to the US Trade Representative (USTR) office in Washington, the two countries have decided they would not be able to conclude FTA negotiations within the timeframe originally established by the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) granted by the US Congress.

The TPA - or “fast-track” negotiating authority - expired in June and has not been renewed.

“Both sides, however, remain committed to completing an FTA and expect to resume negotiations at a later point in time,” USTR spokesperson Gretchen Hamel told Emirates Business.

However, according to the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) in Washington, the general mood seems to be that there will be no renewal - or more likely, a targeted extension - of the Authority until the next Administration takes office in 2009.

“For practical purposes, there is no chance at present for any bilateral FTA passing the US Congress except for the ones still in the pipeline: Colombia, Panama and Korea,” said Chuck Dittrich, vice-president of regional trade initiatives at NFTC, which represents American businesses operating globally.

“The next steps in liberalising trade between the US and the UAE would come through the TIFA-Plus (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) process,” Dittrich told Emirates Business.

TIFA-Plus provides a framework for further discussions on the FTA and on short-term issues important for businesses on both sides.

“[More negotiations with the UAE] could occur if there were shorter-term or more specific issues to negotiate, and the forum for those discussions would be the TIFA-Plus process,” said Dittrich.

According to reports, the FTA also stalled because of the US called for UAE labour market reforms, opening of the services sector, and a change in the Companies Law to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership across the country and not just in the free zones.

“Further progress on labour issues will be one of the important of elements of a final package that gets the United States and the UAE to a completed Free Trade Agreement,” USTR’s Hamel said.

source: Business 24/7