Arab leaders eye full free trade zone by 2015

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RIYADH: Arab leaders pledged to clear the way for a free trade zone this year as they concluded the 3rd Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Riyadh on Tuesday.
In a press briefing, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi said the leaders were determined to clear obstacles to “achieve the Arab customs union fully by 2015.”
“We stress our determination to complete all the prerequisites of (forming) the free trade area before the end of this year,” he said.
Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said officials working to facilitate a customs union were still trying to sort out rules on the origin of goods.
“We still have problems with the issue of country of origin… in order to establish which goods are from Arab countries and the percentage of foreign components,” he said.
The regulations of the customs union stipulate that exempted goods should have at least 40 percent local components.
Arabi said amendments proposed to strengthen the flow of capital and investments between countries were also approved during the two-day summit.
Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, Al-Arabi’s assistant for economic affairs, had described investment laws in Arab countries as a “repellent for investments.”
He also highlighted “significant deficiencies” in the 1980 common agreement over capital movement.
Foreign direct investment inflow dropped from $68.7 billion in 2010 to $43 billion in 2011, a year that saw a wave of Arab Spring uprisings hitting several Arab nations.

— With a report from AFP

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