By Lynne Roberts
Country is gearing up to restructure economy as it prepares for WTO, GCC membership, minister says.
Yemen’s minister of industry and trade says the country’s economy is to be restructured in order for it to join the World Trade Organisation and Gulf Cooperation Council.
The ministry itself has been reorganised to better support the industrial sector, which had been neglected in the past, Dr Yahya Al-Mutawakel said in an interview with the Yemen Observer.
Legal and technical steps towards fulfilling WTO requirements were currently underway, he said, with all conditions for integration expected to be complete by 2008.
Al-Mutawakel agreed that the WTO was an ‘inevitable evil,’ saying “the WTO or globalisation leads to the strongest partners controlling the weakest, so developing countries are disadvantaged, economists say. In fact, no country can afford not to join the WTO, because it will suffer from many disadvantages.” Since conditions for joining had been eased, Yemen would find it easier than some countries which joined previously, he said.
Downsides of joining the WTO would be serious competition for the agricultural and industrial sectors, who stand to “lose everything” if they cannot meet foreign standards of quality and price, he said.
Of an amendment to trade law that allows non-Yemenis to set up companies for import and export he said “This step aims to break down the monopoly and attract new businessmen, in order to expand competition among traders. The first beneficiary is the consumer and the second is the Yemeni economy, which will attract new investors.”
Special incentives for Gulf investors were not necessary he said. “Commercial and industrial laws do not discriminate among Yemenis, Arabs and foreign investors, so the door is wide open to investment.”
Yemen currently has membership in GCC councils for education, health, social affairs and sports, with the Industrial Counseling Center and Gulf Metrology Council soon to follow Al-Mutawakel said. Full integration is planned for 2015.