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26 February 2024

Absence of common rail link smothering GCC trade

By Nadim Kawach


Gulf states need to push ahead with their plan to build a common railway link to ease trade and investment following the launch of the common market early this year, officials said yesterday.

The absence of such a link and persistence of border obstacles have smothered mutual investments and exchange of trade in the six Gulf Co-operation Council countries, the officials said at a GCC industry conference.

Ministers also backed a proposal from regional industrialists for the creation of a giant GCC company to promote industrial development in the region.

“I can tell you things are getting better now that the customs union and the common market have been set up. Things will get even better after the achievement of the GCC monetary union,” Minister of State for Finance and Industry Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash said.

“But, of course, these things are not enough. Transportation is vital for the success of industrial projects, investments and trade. Advanced transport means are the main artery of growth. There is an idea to build a railway in the GCC and this idea is still under discussion. I hope it will materialise.”

Kharbash urged the private sector not to be dissuaded by what he called some obstacles for mutual investment and free trade among member states, adding member states are exerting efforts to remove all those obstacles.

He said the private sector should not “stop its bold initiative to promote the industrial sector” and it should benefit from the expanding opportunities and better infrastructure in the region.

On the proposal to the establishment of a giant GCC company to oversee joint industrial projects, he said: “I can tell you right now: go ahead and establish this company and I assure all GCC governments will support your effort and contribute to this important venture.”

Another GCC minister said integration among GCC states would not be complete without an advanced transport network, dubbing member states “backward in such a sector compared to other countries”.

“We are backward by 100 years in the transport sector. I hope this railway project will see light,” Qatari Minister of Energy and Industry Abdullah Al Attiyah said. “We also need to develop the existing transport network. Can you imagine our imports from Argentina or Chile, for example, reach us before those from Syria or Lebanon. The reason is the backward transport network in the GCC and the entire Arab region. We should start moving on plans to build a GCC railway.”