GCC to recognise Singapore Halal Certification

Free trade accord with GCC a milestone, says Singapore envoy

By Shahid Ali Khan

RIYADH – Singapore Ambassador Hirubalan described the signing of a Free
Trade Agreement between his country and the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) in Doha Monday as the dawning of a new era.

“The signing of
the Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf Cooperation Council and
Singapore symbolizes a new era in relations between Singapore and the
GCC member states. This agreement is a significant milestone that will
lead to further enhancement and strengthening of the already close and
friendly ties we now enjoy,” the envoy said in a statement issued from
the Singapore Embassy here.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
signed in Doha Monday the free trade agreement with GCC members, a
grouping comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates.

The GSFTA, as the agreement is called, is
a milestone in strengthening ties between the GCC countries and
Singapore, because it is the first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by
the GCC and the second FTA that Singapore has signed in the Middle
East, the statement said.

The GCC is Singapore’s seventh largest
trading partner with the volume of bilateral trade reaching a record
high of S$42.4 billion in 2007. This is an increase of 127 percent
since 2002.

Singapore’s cumulative investments in the GCC totaled $357 million in 2006.

GSFTA is a comprehensive agreement that encompasses trade in goods,
services, government procurement and other aspects. The cooperation
chapter as mentioned in the agreement will also encourage and
facilitate bilateral cooperation in several areas, including
recognition of the Halal certification of Singapore’s Majlis Ugama
Islam Singapura (MUIS).

The GSFTA process also commits each GCC
country and Singapore to complete negotiations for bilateral Investment
Guarantee Agreements (IGAs).

As a key institutional framework that
will strategically link the Gulf region and Singapore, the GSFTA will
also help to promote and facilitate the greater flow of goods,
services, investment and people between the two economies.

includes a number of key features such as general provisions, trade in
goods, rules of origin, customs procedures, trade in services,
government procurement, electronic commerce, cooperation, dispute
settlement, and final provisions.

Singapore will grant zero-tariff
treatment on all GCC imports when the agreement comes into effect.
Under the GSFTA, the customs authorities in the GCC and Singapore will
provide an advance ruling on the eligibility of originating goods for
preferential tariffs and tariff classification. – SG