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UAE-US trade talks next month

posted on 24/01/2007: 2182 views

The UAE and US negotiators will meet next month to resolve contentious issues that are delaying a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Dr Mohammad Khalfan Bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Financial and Industrial affairs, said yesterday the two sides are at present discussing labour, market access, investment protection, and issues related to the services and communications sectors. "Some of the chapters are closed. We are currently working on four chapters," he said in remarks at the World in 2007 conference organised in Dubai by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

"We have a meeting in February with our counterparts to evaluate [the progress]. But let me assure you it has been positive," he said.

No venue has been announced yet but the talks could take place in London. Washington started talks with the UAE in March 2005 as part of its regional agenda to sign bilateral trade pacts with a number of Arab countries.

Disagreements over several issues, including US demands for UAE labour reforms and opening up of the telecom sector, have prevented progress.

Political opposition to Dubai firm DP World's takeover of container terminals acquired as part of the P&O purchase at six American ports in March last year further complicated the talks. DP World was forced by US Congress to sell its business to an American entity. US officials believe they have persuaded the UAE to get over the DP World fiasco.

Thomas Donohue, chief executive officer and president of the US Chamber of Commerce, expects a free trade pact to be signed this year. "I hope there will be an agreement this year." Asked if the talks could drag on beyond 2007, Donohue said: "I don't think so. I think it is going to be done in a reasonable period of time." (Gulf News)


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