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Single Gulf visa likely this year

posted on 24/06/2003: 917 views

Businessmen may be allowed to move freely among the GCC countries on a single visa by the end of this year, a senior official said yesterday. "A proposal to allow all businessmen to move freely among the GCC member countries will be submitted to the next GCC summit scheduled for late December, said Mohammed bin Obaid Al Mazroui, GCC Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs, at a seminar on the implementation procedures for the GCC Customs Union held at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday.

"The Interior ministers of the GCC countries were assigned to finalise the proposal and submit it to the GCC heads of state for approval in December. The good news is expected to be announced in the summit's communiqué," Al Mazroui said. "All expatriate residents will have the right to move freely among GCC countries with the establishment of the GCC Common Market scheduled for 2005," he said.

"The establishment of the GCC Customs Union is expected to grow intra-GCC trade 6 to 30 per cent in four years based on the level of liberalisation." Quoting a simulation study based on the EU experience, Al Mazroui added that the Customs Union will increase the regional GDP by 10 to 60 per cent in the same period.

"The unified customs duty will also solve several pending issues concerning inter-economic and commercial cooperation as well as cooperation with other countries and international economic blocs. "The adoption of a single point entry system and procedures on borders and the unified tax have smoothened inter trade exchange and re-export and the trade movement.

"Intra-GCC trade increased from $4 billion in 1986 to around $15 billion at present, an increase of around 250 per cent. The non-oil trade grew to more than $7.5 billion in 2001 from $2.6 billion in 1986, an increase of around 200 per cent," Al Mazroui said. "With the advent of January 2003, the GCC countries heavily moved towards the GCC common market and economic unity through the implementation of the unified customs tax and the single-point entry system. The GCC region has ever since been transformed into a huge and promising market."

He added: "Under the Customs Union, a common customs tariff of 5 per cent is levied on goods imported from outside the GCC, 417 commodities are exempt from duties, all industry inputs are exempt and a duty of 100 per cent is levied on tobacco and its products. "The union will actually protect the GCC countries against many problems like the most favoured nations principle that will be adopted by most WTO members starting in 2005. It reinforces their position in negotiations with the EU and other partners.

"A unified customs tax means raising coordination between the GCC states so that they can present their demands collectively and gain more advantages in the next rounds of negotiations." (The Gulf News)


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