Arab leaders edge toward decision on Free Trade Zone

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Arab leaders are expected to take a final decision on the plan of establishing the Greater Arab Free Trade Zone (FTZ).

“The Doha Summit is expected to take a final decision on the plan and if it doesn’t for some reason, I am afraid the project might be delayed for long,” Mohamed Ibrahim Al Tewaijri, Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League’s Social and Economic Council, was quoted as saying by Qatari daily The Peninsula.

The Arab economic integration plan aims to introduce a free trade zone by 2015, with various reforms including a unified customs regime and a unified certification policy. The FTZ would have a strong impact on international trade and economy, especially on Arab food security and agricultural development.

The project, conceptualised in 1998, would be implemented by 18 Arab countries. The Arab League counts 22 member States, but 4 countries, Somalia, Djibouti, Mauritania and Cameron Island, have not ratified the agreement.

According to Qatar's Minister of Economy and Finance, Yousef Hussein Kamal, who chairs the ministerial-level of the Arab Economic and Social Council’s 24th session in Doha, achieving the goal would require overcoming all obstacles to the implementation of the FTZ, including the fulfillment of the requirements of setting up the FTZ before the end of 2013 and the launch of the Arab customs union before the full implementation of the zone in 2015.

The Arab League’s Social and Economic Council completed the spadework needed for the Arab leaders to approve the FTZ plan. Works on elaborating rules in regulations will start as soon as the FTZ plan is endorsed by the Summit.

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