Kuwait urges GCC to fully implement long-delayed customs union
KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait's Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh on Wednesday urged the energy-rich Gulf states to make concessions to ensure the full implementation in January 2015 of a long-delayed customs union.
Saleh, speaking at a meeting of finance ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, pointed to a long-standing GCC goal that the customs union, launched in 2003, be fully effective by the start of next year.
"It is time for the member states to make some concessions in order to reach an agreed formula that guarantees the rights of all (Gulf) states," the Kuwaiti minister said.
He urged the completion of requirements for the customs union, "particularly ... distribution of customs revenues, protection of local agents and protectionism for some goods."
Kuwait currently holds the rotating presidency of the GCC.
GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani, also speaking at the meeting, urged member states to facilitate free movement of national and foreign goods to allow the January 1, 2015 deadline to be met.
The calls come at a time when the GCC states are locked in a political dispute that could negatively impact economic integration projects.
The customs union was launched at the start of 2003, with full implementation envisaged within three years. However, issues of revenues, dumping and protectionism have seen repeated delays.
A 2010 deadline came and went when the energy-rich bloc failed to agree on the sharing of tariff revenues and experienced difficulties in meeting World Trade Organisation rules.
The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.