(AFP) – Nov 6, 2010
KUWAIT CITY — The six Gulf Cooperation Council states have moved closer to fully implement their much-delayed customs union and only "administrative" hurdles remain, Gulf officials said on Saturday.
"There is consensus over the customs union and even there is a unified GCC law on customs," GCC assistant secretary general for economic affairs Mahammed al-Mazroui told reporters at the end of a GCC finance ministers' meeting.
"But there are some hurdles which the ministers have studied ... These are only administrative difficulties relating to movement of goods between the GCC member states," Mazroui said.
"As long as there is integration and joint work, there will be some hurdles and efforts will be exerted to sort them out," he said.
The GCC official told the opening session that achieving economic integration "requires all concerned committees to accelerate performance and remove the remaining obstacles to the customs union and common market."
In September, the energy-rich bloc decided to postpone implementation of the customs union in the face of disagreement over the sharing of tariff revenues and problems meeting World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
But the council agreed on establishing an electronic clearing mechanism for settling customs duties between the GCC states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Kuwait's Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali told reporters after the meeting that his GCC counterparts had agreed to implement the electronic system, and he played down the remaining obstacles to a customs union.
The customs union was launched at the start of 2003 for a three-year transition period. But issues of revenues, dumping and protectionism repeatedly have delayed its full implementation.
Mazroui said the GCC states have tasked the customs union committee with reviewing the union's mechanisms every year for the next five years.
The customs union's final aim is to create a free trade zone to facilitate the movement of goods among the GCC states and between the Gulf and the outside world.
Shamali said the ministers also discussed a Bahraini proposal to set up a pan-GCC fund for financial and economic stability. Manama has been asked to submit a detailed working paper on the issue at the next meeting.
They reviewed a Qatari proposal to establish a development bank, while Mazroui said the ministers had approved amendments to a unified anti-dumping law to fall in line with WTO requirements.
The ministers and GCC central bank governors were scheduled later on Saturday to meet with a senior International Monetary Fund official.
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