GCC countries postpone customs union move
8 September 2010
Dubai (PTI) The Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic union involving the six Arab states, has decided to shelve its proposed customs union by at least two years after the modalities for the distribution of revenues and the mechanism of collection were not finalised.
The decision was taken at a meeting of GCC ministers of foreign affairs, finance and economy held in Jeddah yesterday.
The unwillingness of some countries in implementing the requirements put in by the union was cited by the officials as reason for the delay.
The agreement on the customs union was signed by the six countries — Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Oman — about seven years ago.
After the meeting Kuwaiti Minister of Finance Mustafa Al Shimali said the GCC has made major quantum leaps in the way to wipe out obstacles and barriers impeding a planned GCC customs union, expressing confidence that it would be completed within two or three years.
However, he did not rule out implementing an automatic customs clearance system this year as against a manual system they are using now. "The GCC member states have taken very good steps to notch up such an end, including a customs electronic link and customs revenue distribution this year."
The customs union is aimed at making the GCC a zone in which the customs charges, taxes and procedures and rules restricting trade would be abolished. In this zone, a unified custom tariff of five per cent towards the rest of the world would be applied.
Al Shamali said the GCC customs union would boost the six countries’’ role in the World Trade Organisation and would enable them to have a say in international trade policies.
Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, GCC Security General, said that the council will not proceed with the European Union Free Trade Agreement negotiations until the it meets the demands set by the GCC. "Negotiations will be put on hold until the EU complies with the GCC countries’’ demands." PTI CORR