UAE Ratifies Singapore-GCC Free Trade Agreement

Lily B. Libo-on
— The UAE, along with with Oman and Qatar, has ratified a Free Trade
Agreement between Singapore and the GCC that will facilitate trade,
including the import of Halal products to the GCC and provide greater
assurance to Muslim tourists and businessmen ?visiting Singapore.

Dean Tan,  Vice-Consul for Commercial Affairs at the Singapore Consulate, told Khaleej Times that Singapore is still awaiting ratification of the FTA from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

when all parties complete the necessary ratification procedure, UAE
will play a very important role, it being a major trans-shipment hub
?the region,” Tan said.

The pact is a milestone in the strengthening of ties between the GCC and Singapore  because
it is the first free trade agreement, or FTA, signed by the GCC and the
second that Singapore will be signing with countries in the Middle
East. The Jordan-Singapore FTA,   signed on May 16, 2004, was the first free trade pact that Singapore  signed with any country in
?the  region.

“The GCC is also Singapore’s 7th
largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching a record high of
S$42.4 billion in 2007. This is an increase of 127 per cent since 2002.
Singapore’s cumulative investments in the GCC totalled S$357 million in
2006,” he said.

The deal is officially known as the GCC-Singapore Agreement Between Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf  and  the
Republic of Singapore, or GSFTA. It was signed between Singapore’s
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his GCC counterparts —
President-in-Office of the GCC Ministerial Council and Qatar Prime
Minister Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, and GCC Secretary-General
Abdurrahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah in Doha on December 15, 2008.  

Tan said that the GSFTA is a comprehensive agreement that encompasses trade in goods and services, government procurement, and ?other features.

Cooperation Chapter will also encourage and facilitate bilateral
cooperation in several areas, including the recognition of the Halal
certification of Singapore’s Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura,” Tan said.

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

Oman and Saudi Arabia signed bilateral IGAs with Singapore. Kuwait,
Qatar and the UAE committed to completing negotiations for bilateral
IGAs with Singapore within two years from the commencement of negotiations. The GCC was our 7th largest trading partner after Malaysia, China, US, Indonesia, Japan and Hong Kong in 2007,” he said.

Based on 2007 figures, Singapore’s total exports (both domestic exports and re-exports) to GCC countries were worth an estimated S$7.5 billion, while the Gulf states exported S$34.8 billion worth of goods ?to Singapore.  

GSFTA, as a key institutional framework, aims to strategically link the
Gulf region and Singapore and help promote and increase the flow of
goods, services, investment and people between the two economies.