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GCC states to launch joint market

The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council Tuesday launch their joint market after having agreed on all basic requirements and preparations over the last five years since the 2002 summit in Doha.

After 26 years of joint action, the states hope the launch of the market would help bring closer goals such as equality, ease of transit, residency, work, and investment, and better health services, social services, and education. All GCC citizens and bodies are to be treated as nationals and national entities within the GCC region and particularly when it comes to economic activities and trade. The market is also hoped to open new horizons for GCC and foreign investment to better utilize available resources and seize opportunities.

GCC Secretary General had termed the launch of the market a historical achievement and a step that is in line with the aspiration of the GCC governments and people. He also stressed this would bolster the GCC’s weight as a bloc in all interaction with the international community and other blocs. As gradual steps towards the joint market, the GCC states agreed to set up a free trade zone in 1983, founded the commercial arbitration center in 1995, founded the auditing and review authority in 1998, and there were also the union of GCC chambers of commerce and industry and the standardization authority agreed in 2003. The customs union also came that same year to remove obstacles to smooth and bigger volume trade, as well as to unify measures and practices for interaction with regional and international trade and economic bodies.

The common market is meanwhile the strongest manifestation of cooperation and is expected to bring about best results. The Gulf Cooperation Council states span over a geographical area of some 2.673 million square kilometers and have a population of about 35.1 million. Overall GDP, according to 2006 statistics, is a good $715 billion with income at $20,400 per capita. Founding a joint GCC market would serve to considerably boost trade exchange among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Chairman of Bahrain’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry Monday. Essam Fakhro told Al-Watan paper here trade exchange within the GCC as well as with other parties would surely grow by 25% at least in the next two years with launch of the GCC market.

The growth would be gradual and constant, he said, further stressing economic action was a main focus and field of greater productivity and accomplishment for the GCC as a bloc. The figure meanwhile urged establishment of a more solid and adequate legislative basis and trade facilities and noted Bahrain’s expertise in this regard. Fakhro said the current GCC trade exchange is a mere 15 to 20% of the region’s trade exchange and this pales in comparison with the European Union’s trade exchange of 50%. The joint market was the tool in Europe and is the tool for the GCC to boost the exchange, he noted.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of the GCC Abdulrahman Al-Atiyyah congratulated members states of the regional bloc Monday on the launch of the GCC common market slated for Tuesday. “The launch of the common market is a great stride on the march of the GCC and will have positive impacts on the regional economies,” Al-Atiyyah told reporters here. “The common market will cement economic integration among the countries of the region and enhance their competitiveness and negotiating power. “It will facilitate the movement of goods and individuals among the GCC member countries and promote joint investment in, and socio-economic development of, the region under the new global changes.

“The establishment of the common market is in line with the aims of the basic system of the GCC, namely to achieve relations of cooperation, enhance coordination and cement unity among the GCC members in all fields as well as fulfill the common aspirations of the individuals and corporations in the area. “It will achieve equality among the GCC citizens and corporations in all GCC member countries. “It will help implement the ten targets of the GCC economic treaty and help the GCC citizen tap the job and business opportunities in all GCC markets,” the GCC secretary general underscored.

The project of joint Gulf Cooperation Council electronic Market that costs 37.5 million riyals, ($10 million) was launched, a Gulf official announced Monday. Secretary General of the Federation of Gulf Cooperation Council Chambers (FGCCC) Abdulraheem Naqi told Al-Riyadh Saudi paper that the project was launched after an agreement was made with a joint Gulf-Saudi company. He pointed out that there is an integrated team to manage the joint electronic market, adding that talks are held with the European Union countries and China to enter the GCC states through the electronic market.

Naqi said he believes those countries will agree to that soon. The project will focus on business in the region, the exchange of information by an interactive environment, the integration with information technology, decreasing the IT gap between large, medium, and small companies, he noted. One of the major services to be provided by the market is the ability to send sales offers electronically, hold electronic auctions, and exchange documents confidentially, he said. Naqi said the FGCCC was keen to united the efforts and connect the Gulf chambers since the beginning of the nineties to build a joint Gulf information center. Electronic trade in the Gulf valued around $8 billion 2007 and is expected to increase by 9.4% in the next three years.

Nearly three decades after the idea was first mooted, the six oil-rich Gulf monarchies enter the new year after finally establishing a common market with a combined economy of $715 billion. The new regional economic grouping should ensure “economic equality” for Gulf Cooperation Council citizens, GCC Secretary General Abdulraham al-Attiyah said at a summit of GCC leaders in early December. He described the launch as “historic” 26 years after the common market was announced as an objective when the GCC was formed in 1981. The initiative “will increase investments and common trade between members,” GCC economic chief Mohammad al-Mazroui told AFP, adding that it will also “strengthen the position of member states in free-trade talks,” mainly with the EU. Some 35.1 million people live in the GCC, although citizens of the member states represent around only 60% of the total population, with the remainder foreign expatriates working there.

In addition to allowing the free flow of capital, the common market should give GCC nationals freedom of movement, residency and employment — in both the private and public sectors — in any of the six countries, Attiyah said. “The common market... will allow the citizens of GCC member states to benefit from opportunities offered by the Gulf economy and will open important areas to common and foreign investments,” he added. The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which together account for a total surface area of 2.6 million square kilometers (1.04 million square miles). Sitting on 484 billion barrels of oil, they also represent more than half of the oil reserves of the OPEC. (Arab Times)