UAE is key commercial gateway for GCC countries

(NIC GIBSON)   

 

A total of Dh22 billion worth of goods have entered the GCC through UAE customs since the introduction of the GCC customs union, a top official has said.

Saeed bin Khalifa Al Merri, Deputy Director-General of the Federal Customs Authority in the UAE, said statistics on inter-GCC trade show the UAE is the most important commercial gateway for all GCC countries.

In a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Friday, Al Merri said the UAE has covered 70 per cent of the clearance until the end of 2007 since the customs union was set up on January 1, 2003.

He said the UAE owes a total of Dh175 million to other GCC countries, while it stands to receive many times that amount from them – a sign that the UAE benefits a lot from the GCC customs union.

Al Merri said the union does not face any difficulties at present and the only glitch is related to the daily procedures at the customs outlets, which are solved through phone calls or liaison officers.

He attributed the entry of most commodities imported into the GCC through the UAE to the great facilities provided by UAE ports and customs, and added that the customs union was the first clear benefit in the GCC’s path of economic integration.

Al Merri also announced that the UAE’s Federal Customs Authority (FCA) will participate in the 42nd meeting of the GCC customs union committee tomorrow in Riyadh. The three-day meeting is the first for the committee since the GCC leaders’ enforced the common GCC market.

The meeting will discuss 12 topics, including service charges that are to be collected at customs outlets among the GCC countries, and obstacles to the implementation of the customs union.

The meeting will also review the statistical committee’s report about trade between the GCC countries and the world, the classification of fake and prohibited commodities, the Arab League’s agreement to exempt equipment of air transport establishments from taxes and customs duties, and Oman’s commitments to the World Trade Organisation.

Also included in the meeting’s agenda are the UAE’s request to exempt pearl and precious stones from customs charges, the UAE’s initiative to erase customs charges on some non-agricultural raw materials in accordance with WTO norms, and customs exemptions among member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

The UAE has also suggested to lay out a mechanism of tackling commodities that come without their origin specified.

Commenting on the issue of fake commodities in GCC countries, Al Merri said counterfeiting was a global, not just a local or Gulf phenomenon.

He said the United Kingdom announced recently it has bogus goods valued more than £10bn (Dh70bn).

Al Merri said the FCA cooperates with all local and international bodies in the field of training to raise the efficiency of customs inspectors at outlets.

He revealed that a training programme will be organised in March this year by Chinese experts on counterfeiting methods prevalent in China.

Representatives from the the World Customs Organisation recently paid a visit to the UAE, Al Merri said, and offered recommendations that are being implemented by the FCA, including the setting up of a customs intelligence unit and a risk management unit.

Other recommendations pertained to unification of customs procedures and the activation of electronic linkages among customs departments.

Al Merri added that the Federal Customs Authority agreed recently with the Ministry of Interior to establish a customs training centre at the FCA to raise the efficiency of customs officers and all staff working at outlets.

The FCA’s budget was also increased in 2008 from Dh12m to Dh26m.

 
 
 
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