Results of the Negotiation Round to be presented to the Arab League for Approval in February 2017 AD
The Saudi delegation has concluded its participating in the meetings of the Agreement for Liberalization Trade in Services among Arab countries "Beirut Round”. Notably, these intensive negotiations had been going on for 12 years, since the first round took place in the first quarter of 2004 AD.
The meeting was attended by the nine member states of this organization: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kingdom of Morocco, Arab Republic of Egypt, Republic of Lebanon, Republic of Sudan and Republic of Yemen.
The agreement of liberalization trade in services stipulates opening up the field of investment in specific services sectors to investors from the Member States, so that the investors from the Member States have exclusive right to invest in the services sectors. Beirut round falls within various rounds to liberalize more services sectors.
The agreement also deals with the consultations on simplifying and facilitating local legislation governing services sectors in each member country.
The agreement aims to liberalize trade in services among Arab countries on a gradual basis, based on multilateral negotiations, in addition to promoting the interests of all parties on mutual benefit basis, besides achieving the balance between rights and duties, taking into consideration the relevant objectives of the National Policies and the situation of the Arab LDCs.
H.E. the General Supervisor of the Deputy Ministry for Foreign Trade, Mr. Abdul Rahman Al Harbi, confirmed presenting the results of the negotiation round, and the relevant obligations of the member States to the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League at its 99th Session, scheduled in mid-February 2017 for approval, pointing out that the agreement would be enforced after three months of the ratification of three member countries and after being submitted to the Arab League Secretariat.
This comes within the Arab countries’ conviction that the Grand Arab Free Trade Zone would not achieve its goals without the liberalization of trade in services, in parallel with the liberalization of trade in goods.
As permitted by Article (V) of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, under the World Trade Organization (GATS) regarding the Economic Integration, it is possible for the Member States of the WTO to enter into agreements for more Liberalization of trade in services. Therefore, the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League had issued a decree in February 2000 AD, urging Arab states to speed up the integration of trade in services within the framework of the Grand Arab Free Trade Zone, as well as the Arab Summit in March 2002, in Beirut had issued a similar decree.
The basis for starting such negotiations was that the obligations of the Arab countries, members of the WTO, should represent their initial offers, so that starting with a minimum of these commitments is not permissible. For non-member states, they should provide tables of commitments, representing their current offers to join the World Trade Organization.
The negotiation round was concluded upon submitting greater obligations than those committed in the WTO framework, and for the non-member states, they had submitted better commitments than those under the current negotiation for getting the membership of the organization. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was excluded from submitting greater commitments, since the Kingdom is considered from the few countries that made commitments in most services sectors.