Jan-14 - 20, 2002
GCC to press EU for trade accord
Gulf states are set to press the EU to sign a landmark free
trade pact after they removed the main hurdle for the long-sought agreement by
endorsing a customs union last month. Foreign ministers from the GCC and the EU
are due to meet in Granada next month to discuss the accord and other economic
and political issues.
It will be the first high-level meeting between the two blocs
after September 11, and diplomats expect terrorism to be on the agenda.
Officials at the Riyadh-based GCC Secretariat confirmed that
the foreign ministers would meet in late February, and said the trade pact would
be the main issue following the approval of the customs union by the GCC summit
"We will present details of the customs agreement at the
meeting," a GCC official said. "We will ask them to hasten measures to
sign the free trade agreement now that their condition for unifying our customs
tariffs has been met.
"We hope there will be no more excuses because any delay
in finalising this accord will not be in the interest of GCC states."
Diplomats said they expected the EU to raise the issue of
terrorism and measures taken by the GCC to support an international anti-terror
drive, including tightening of anti-money laundering laws.
"There are other issues which are directly or indirectly
linked to the terrorism issue," a Saudi-based Western diplomat said.
"The EU has always raised such issues as democracy, human rights and
illegal migration ... these matters might delay the free trade pact as they have
gained more urgency since the September attacks."
Gulf economists believe the GCC customs union would pave the
way for free trade agreement with the EU, but that it would not be signed before
tariffs are unified.
Lebanese PM in Brussels
Lebanon and the European Union initialed an association
agreement aimed at generating freer bilateral trade and stronger political
dialogue, the Lebanese delegation said.
The accord "will contribute to peace and stability in
the region and will stimulate trade and economic relations between Lebanon and
its Mediterranean partners," the European Commission said in its own
The agreement "will bring the two parties toward greater
bilateral trade," and "will constitute a springboard for economic
liberalization in Lebanon," said the commission statement, adding that it
would "send a clear and positive message" on investment possibilities
Saudi Arabia's deficit surges over $6b in 2001
Strong oil prices have again tempted Saudi Arabia to
overshoot spending levels and risk a budget deficit of more than $6 billion last
year despite its swelling debt, economists in the kingdom said yesterday.
The world's top oil supplier had forecast a zero deficit, but
the gap surged to around 25 billion riyals ($6.6 billion) last year to aggravate
the public debt and reverse the financial euphoria of the previous year.
Figures by the National Commercial Bank (NCB) showed Saudi
Arabia overshot the assumed expenditure of 215 billion riyals ($57.3 billion) to
255 billion riyals ($58 billion), an 18 per cent increase.
Revenues also grew from a projected $57.3 billion to 230
billion riyals ($61.3 billion). They included nearly $50 billion in oil export
earnings and $2.5 billion in import duties.
"These are preliminary official figures," said
Malik Younus, an economist at NCB. "We do not have details of the
expenditure, nor do we know why and how spending was increased. I do not want to
speculate at this moment."
The deficit is in contrast with 2000, when the budget
recorded an over $6 billion surplus on the back of a crude price surge - the
highest surplus since the end of the oil boom in 1982.
Bankers said the deficit last year was shored up through
borrowing from local banks, pension funds and other sources. They noted bonds
issued by the government to banks rose by 10 billion riyals ($2.6 billion).
"The deficit last year was manageable as it accounted
for around 3.7 per cent of the gross domestic product," Saudi economist
Ihsan bu Hlaika said. "But it will be a problem in the long run if the
deficit continues - this means a further deterioration in the public debt."
Saudis hit back over Mecca castle
Saudi Arabia has rejected Turkish protests over the
demolition of a historic Ottoman fortress in the city of Mecca.
Islamic Affairs Minister Saleh al-Shaikh, was quoted by the
French news agency AFP as saying that Saudi Arabia was exercising its
He added that no-one had the right to interfere and that a
reconstruction of the fort would be included as part of the site redevelopment.
The 220-year-old al-Ajyad fortress was demolished last week
to make way for a $533m project to house pilgrims to Mecca.
RAK exports hit Dh348m in first half
Ras Al Khaimah's exports topped Dh348 million in first-half
2001, said a Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture
report, issued yesterday.
The exports were to 38 Arab and foreign countries, with most
of the trade concentrated within the region.
Saudi Arabia with a dominant 47.58 per cent share totalling
Dh165.58 was its biggest market, with second-placed Kuwait accounting for 21.84
per cent (Dh76 million), and Bahrain in third slot with 7.05 per cent (Dh24.52
Oman followed with 4.75 per cent (Dh16.53 million), Qatar
with 4.62 per cent (Dh16.09 million), Lebanon with 2.53 per cent (Dh8.8
million), and Libya with 1.98 per cent (Dh6.88 million).
Jordan, Sudan and Australia completed the top 10 listing.
Pharmaceutical products topped the demand listing with 32.5
per cent, with ceramics contributing 31.3 per cent, rocks aggregates 15.5 per
cent, cement 14.7 per cent, and glass 3.2 per cent.
The report placed re-exports during the period at Dh116.73
million to 33 countries. Turkey received Dh35.96 million, or 30.1 per cent, with
Jordan (Dh26.15 million, or 22.4 per cent), Iraq (Dh12.68 million or 10.86 per
cent) and Saudi Arabia (Dh11 million or 9.42 per cent) following.
Bangladesh, Qatar, Kuwait, Romania, Lebanon and Oman also
placed on the top 10 list.
Textiles with 24.1 per cent was the top re-export, followed
by electronic equipment with 13.3 per cent, industrial machinery (9 per cent),
electric machines (7.9 per cent) and domestic appliances (6.5 per cent).
Dubai witnesses brisk business in auto parts
Heavy demand from relatively newer re-export destinations
such as Libya and Sudan have sustained a 50 per cent plus growth for Dubai's
trade in after-market automobile spare parts, according to a senior source.
"Libya has come on strongly since the lifting of
sanctions, and especially so during the last 12 months. Several of the African
markets too have stepped up their sourcing activity out of Dubai for spare
parts," said Pradeep Handa, chief executive of Auto Zone Spares Parts Est.
"Together, these markets, plus the Subcontinent, have
more than compensated for any falloff from other territories."
Documentary credits to go online
Banks in UAE are readying themselves to introduce electronic
uniform customs and practice (eUCP) for documentary credits from the first week
of April, this year. International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has asked the banks
here to be in line with developments in the developed world, where the eUCP is
already in place.
Fujairah to hold seminar in March
A three-day seminar on sea ports and marine transport will be
held in Fujairah from March 16-18. It is organised by the Commercial Arbitration
Centre of the GCC countries. Participants at the Centre's Oman meeting this week
agreed to put in efforts to develop new methods to solve commercial disputes,
especially among banking and insurance establishments," said Khalifa Khamis
Mattar Al Kaabi, chairman of the Fujairah Chamber of Commerce, Industry and
Agriculture, and representative of the UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Federation to the meeting of Oman.
Iraq to maintain 2m bpd exports
Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said his country
would maintain its oil exports at around two million barrels per day (bpd) this
The minister told reporters during a stopover in Bangkok for
bilateral trade meetings with
Thailand that Iraq would continue to supply oil to the
market. He gave no further details. Indonesia says fuel price hike possibly 20
Iraqi crude oil exports via the Turkish port of Ceyhan are
still on hold yesterday due to poor weather, although two vessels stand ready to
begin loading when conditions calm, industry sources said.
Ceyhan has been idle since the start of the year as end-users
and traders avoided lifting Iraqi barrels due to the UN's policy of pricing the
oil after the fact.
Iran 'blocks UK ambassador'
Britain's new ambassador to Iran has had his appointment
blocked by Iranian Government officials, according to reports.
Iranian newspaper Jomhuri Islami said that the decision to
appoint David Reddaway had angered Iran, who claimed he was not acceptable for
the role as he was both Jewish and linked to Britain's MI6 secret service.
Mr Reddaway was to replace Nicholas Browne, who left the post
UN concern at blocked Iraq deals
A senior United Nations official has expressed grave concern
about a dramatic increase in
the number of holds that have been put on contracts requested
by Iraq as part of the UN's Oil for Food Programme.
Under the programme the UN controls the proceeds of Iraqi oil
sales and approves the purchase of supplies for humanitarian and industrial use.
UN Security Council members are however in a position to
block the provision of these supplies.
Libya wants Arab summit in Cairo
Libya has asked for the summit of the Arab League - scheduled
to take place in March in the Lebanese capital, Beirut - to be moved to Cairo.
Libya's move follows demands from the Shia Amal party in
Lebanon to bar the Libyan president, Muammar Gaddafi, from the summit.
Lebanon's Shias hold Mr Gaddafi responsible for the
disappearance of their spiritual leader, Moussa Sadr, in 1978.
Costa coffee heads for Middle East
The international expansion of Whitbread's Costa Coffee chain
is set to continue with 55 new stores planned for the Middle East.
Whitbread said it plans to open the new stores in Saudi
Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain over the coming year, and the new outlets should
create more than 500 jobs.
It ultimately aims to open about 140 stores in the region
during the next five years.
Whitbread has signed a franchise deal with the Bahrain-based
retail, restaurant and food distribution company Jawad Business Group.
Iran-India study on gas project by June
Iran and India will conclude by mid-2002 a feasibility study
for a gas pipeline linking the two countries, a project dogged by New Delhi's
security concerns of the pipeline traversing Pakistan, Pakistan's energy
minister Usman Aminuddin said on Wednesday.
"Iran and India have jointly initiated a study for a
sub-sea gas pipeline and an onshore pipeline simultaneously to meet India's
security concerns. The study will be ready by June this year," Aminuddin
Aminuddin was talking in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi
where he met his counterpart Obeid bin Seif al-Nasseri for talks on bilateral
energy cooperation and possible investment in Pakistan's energy sector.
Buyers warned on fake diamonds
Synthetic diamonds are allegedly making their way into Dubai
from Italy, Thailand and Russia, an expert has revealed to Gulf News. The
super-quality synthetic diamonds were a few months ago wreaking havoc in UK's
At that time, Anita Dillen, certificates manager at Diamond
High Council in Belgium, warned that "everybody should be aware of
super-quality fakes that are emerging around the world." Back then, Dubai's
wholesalers, jewellers and official groups stressed they were on top of the
problem even before it reared its ugly head.
But now, it appears synthetic diamonds, which are 'grown' in
machines and have the same composition as a natural diamond, are in Dubai. The
'problem' is pretty hard to avoid.
Iran rejects Bush's warning
The Iranian government rejected as "unfounded" a
warning from US President George W. Bush that Tehran must not seek to
destabilize Afghanistan's interim government.
"We reject the comments of Mr. George W. Bush. These are
unfounded comments that rely on undocumented information," said foreign
ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi, in a statement received by AFP.
"Iran used all the means at its disposal to oppose the
inhuman phenomenon," he said, speaking of Afghanistan's former ruling
Taliban regime, "even before the international community was worried by the
terrorist groups in Afghanistan."
Assefi insisted Iran had worked for stability inside
Afghanistan, but the US-led coalition which removed Afghanistan's former ruling
Taliban militia from power was having an unsettling effect.
Iraq sings a conciliatory tune to Arab neighbours
Iraq, infamous for vitriolic attacks on some Arab states, is
taking an unusually conciliatory tone with its neighbours ahead of a rare visit
by the Arab League secretary general to prepare a March summit.
The kind comments appearing in the state-controlled press
about the pan-Arab body, not long since a target for violent rhetoric, well
illustrate the change of tone in Baghdad, where Amr Musa is due to arrive on
It will be only the second visit by the head of the league to
Iraq since the Gulf War in 1991 and concerns the summit slated for March 25 and
26 in Beirut.
Oman LNG in $1.3b loan deal with banks
Oman LNG signed with a consortium of 12 major international
and regional banks a $1.3 billion term loan facility along with a $64 million
letter of credit to refinance the company's original debt raised in 1997 for the
ambitious plant at Qalhat in the Sharqiya region.
Consortium partners included ANZ Investment Bank, Arab
Petroleum Investment Corp, Arab Banking Corp, Credit Agricole Indosuez, Credit
Lyonnais, Gulf International Bank, HSBC Investment Bank, Bayerische Hypo-Vereinsbank,
the Mizuho Group (comprising Fuji Bank Ltd and Industrial Bank of Japan),
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd and the Royal
Bank of Scotland.
Borouge starts exports
The Abu Dhabi Polymers Co (Borouge) yesterday commenced
exports through Mina Zayed, the main hub port and storage centre for the
company's exports to the Gulf, Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
Jebel Ali Free Zone
During the last two decades, with the government's increasing
emphasis on diversification of the economy, the manufacturing sector has made
significant progress in Dubai.
Jebel Ali Free Zone has played an influential role in
attracting manufacturing industries and, today, hundreds of factories cover a
wide range of manufacturing fields.
A company to market Palestinian products throughout the Arab
world will be set up as a joint venture between the private sectors in Palestine
and the UAE, Dr Saadi Al Kronz, Palestinian Minister of Industries, stated.
UAE, Switzerland 'can jointly fight money laundering'
UAE and Switzerland, both service-oriented countries with a
long tradition of financial efficiency, can forge partnerships in countering
money laundering, a senior Swiss diplomat said yesterday.
"The events of September 11 have made it imperative for
peace loving countries to work closely to combat the menace of terrorism and
other associated crimes such as money laundering," Francois Barras, Swiss
ambassador to the UAE told a gathering at the Zayed Centre yesterday.
"The UAE and Switzerland have two financial systems that
are open and efficient and this openness can be abused," he said.
Qatar, Pakistan reaffirm strong support to Gusa venture
The ambitious Gulf South Asia (Gusa) gas pipeline project
from Qatar to Pakistan took a big step towards implementation, with both
governments reaffirming their continued strong support to the venture.
The project is expected to entail an estimated $3 billion
outlay in the construction of the downstream facilities.
Four Israeli soldiers, two Palestinian raiders slain
A rare Middle East calm was shattered when Palestinian gunmen
from the radical Islamic movement Hamas killed four
Israeli soldiers in the first successful attack into southern
Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The two gunmen disguised as police officers used automatic
rifles and grenades to attack the army post outside the kibbutz of Kerem Shalom,
across the border from the Gaza town of Rafah, before being gunned down
themselves by the Israeli army.
The Israeli army said the soldiers killed were Bedouin Arabs,
while relatives of the gunmen said they too were Bedouins.
Israeli tanks start to bulldoze homes in Rafah
Twelve Israeli tanks and bulldozers stormed the southern Gaza
Strip town of Rafah and started razing homes early Thursday, less than 24 hours
after members of the militant group Hamas killed four Israeli soldiers in
Israel, just across the border from the Rafah area, security sources said.
The tanks and bulldozers had begun destroying homes under
cover of heavy machine-gun fire, in Block O, a neighborhood under Palestinian
self-rule in the town on the Egyptian border, witnesses and security sources
Israel halts mosque construction
Israel has decided to halt construction of a controversial
mosque in the town of Nazareth, an Israeli official has said.
Plans to build the mosque next to a major Christian shrine
had been fiercely opposed by Christian groups and had led to tension between
Israel and the Vatican.