Abu Dhabi – MENA Herald: The World Trade Organization (WTO) has concluded its third Trade Policy Review of the UAE which took place at its office in Geneva recently. The Organization commended the important role played by the UAE in global trade and its commitment to the principles of the multilateral trading system, as well as the adoption of economic policies for promoting efficient trade movement locally, regionally and internationally which have made the country an important global trade hub.
The UAE underwent the review with the active participation of a high-level delegation headed by H.E. Eng. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, in the presence of H.E. Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. Other attendees included H.E. Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Saleh, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade and Industry, H.E. Juma Mohammed Al Kait, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade, and representatives from 14 ministries and federal and local agencies.
The delegates provided the answers to more than 260 questions and inquiries raised by WTO member countries. The queries were based on two reports, one prepared by the UAE Government, and another by the WTO Secretariat addressing legislations, laws and procedures related to the trade of goods and services in the UAE.
WTO members involved in the Third WTO Trade Policy Review praised the steps taken by the UAE to diversify its economy, noting how the country’s flexible trade policies have contributed to the growth of non-oil foreign trade.
H.E. Eng. Al Mansouri expressed pride in the wide praise given to the UAE’s economic policy, emphasizing that the state has taken into consideration all the comments on sectors requiring more attention during his closing speech at the Third WTO Trade Policy Review in Geneva. “The UAE will continue to pursue economic strategies characterized by openness and enhance enablers for working according to free-market mechanisms, in light of its belief that an open economy increases our national competitiveness,” he said.
The Minister also addressed a number of concerns that were debated on during the review sessions, including the issuance of private ownership and the applicability of an investment law allowing up to 100 per cent foreign investment in different sectors.
His Excellency also presented the benefits and guarantees offered for foreign investments, citing the presence of more than 30 free trade zones within the country that allow 100 per cent ownership in addition to many other incentives. He shared that more than 40,000 companies operate in these zones spread across the various emirates.
H.E. Eng. Al Mansouri added that full ownership is allowed for a number of international companies that provide professional and specialized services, and that a new foreign investment law will allow full or partial ownership of foreign investments in vital economic sectors that support economic diversification, experience and knowledge transfer, and innovation.
In his speech, the Minister outlined the types of commercial agencies operating in the UAE, workers’ conditions, and the insolvency law set for implementation shortly. H.E. also presented the strategic trading partners of the country, referring to the European Union as the UAE’s largest trading partner. He further stated that most foreign companies operating in the UAE are members of the European Union and total around 160,000 companies.
Ambassador Irene B. K. YOUNG (Hong Kong, China), the current chair of the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB), said: “The completion of the UAE’s third Trade Policy Review coincided with the 20th anniversary of the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization. This review was very interesting due to the trade and investment development policies formulated by the country.”
The first day of the review focused on the success of the UAE’s economic diversification policy which helped the state overcome the financial crisis that arose in 2008 as well as the drop in oil process that began in 2014.
Ambassador YOUNG mentioned the member countries’ appreciation for several facets of the UAE’s trading policy, including the commitment to low customs tariffs and the implementation of common external GCC customs tariffs that vary between zero to five per cent.
She also said that a number of WTO members have questions about import requirements and procedures involving areas such as regulatory import requirements, border inspection and clearance systems, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
The Ambassador added that the UAE’s Trade Policy Review will be concluded within a month from now to give the UAE delegation ample time to respond to any unanswered questions.
Ambassador YOUNG concluded that the recommended revisions will significantly contribute to the development of national trade policies and improve the investment and trade climate.
She ended her speech by thanking the UAE for providing all the required data and responding to all the inquiries made by the member countries before and during the review process.