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Informal US-UAE trade talks to go on

posted on 12/03/2007: 2678 views

Free trade negotiations between the UAE and the US have stalled, but the two countries will continue informal discussions to reach a deal in the future, an American official said.

US and UAE officials were hoping to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) by March 31 as the Bush White House's trade promotion authority expires at the end of June. "Right now there is a pause in negotiations... [it is] a stock taking moment," US under-secretary for international trade Franklin Lavin said yesterday.

FTA negotiations between the two nations have gone on for about two years, with the latest round held in London last month. "These discussions will continue on an informal basis but there is no formal negotiating round planned for the moment," Lavin added.

The talks have been marred by several contentious issues, including US demands for UAE labour market reforms and opening of the services sector. "We still have some tough areas to tackle," Lavin conceded. He said the US would like the UAE to change the Companies Law to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership across the whole country and not just in the free zones.

He said "changing the agent-distributor law to eliminate the requirement for most companies to have a UAE agent to operate here," will help the UAE's status as a business hub. The US wants to create a free trade area in the Middle East and has signed pacts with Bahrain, Oman and Morocco.

US-UAE talks were also hit by last year's political controversy over DP World's forced exit from the US after several Congressmen saw a security threat if an Arab company managed American ports.

The DP World fiasco made many Arab investors leery about investing in the US. "We don't want investment decisions to be made on politics, but rather on a commercial basis," Lavin said. According to US figures, trade was US$13.3 billion in 2006, with the UAE importing US$11.92 billion worth of American goods. (Gulf News)


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