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Wed 24 Jan 2007 02:07 PM

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UAE-US trade deal: one more try

Negotiators from the two countries will attempt to seal a free trade agreement before it is delayed indefinitely.

UAE and US negotiators will meet next month to attempt to resolve the problems that have stalled a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Dr Mohammad Khalfan Bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Financial and Industrial affairs, told Gulf News that the two sides are discussing labour, market access, investment protection, and issues related to the services and communications sectors.

"We have a meeting in February with our counterparts to evaluate [the progress]. But let me assure you it has been positive," he told the newspaper.

As ArabianBusiness.com reported earlier this month, the FTA between the two countries has just weeks to be finalised otherwise it could be delayed for an unlimited period of time.

Due to the Bush administration losing power in Congress to the Democrats earlier this year the FTA needs to be approved by the end of March before the Republicans’ power to approve trade deals expires in June.

David Bohigian, US assistant secretary for market access and compliance said that unresolved issues included the opening of various UAE sectors for foreign investment. Allowing foreign ownership in local businesses would be key points to clinch a successful deal between the US and the Emirates.

Previous talks stalled in early 2006 due to the Dubai Ports Worlds (DP World) acquisition of six US ports — a deal that was heavily politicised due to alleged ‘security concerns’. DP World sold off the US entities to AIG last December; however, FTA talks remained unsuccessful throughout the whole of 2006.

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