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GCC customs union fully operational from Jan 1

DOHA: The long-awaited Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) customs union became fully operational from January 1.The move signifies a qualitative leap towards a full-fledged regional common market.

The first phase of the customs union was launched in January 2003 and its full implementation has taken 12 years. Hurdles like how customs revenues would be shared by member-states according to their economic weight delayed the union’s final phase.

Prominent businessman, Ali Hassan Al Khalaf, said Qatar Chamber should now take a lead and explain to foreign investors about the GCC customs union.

The chamber must inform businessmen and investors about the implications of the regional customs integration for the local trade and industry.

A former bureaucrat, Al Khalaf agreed to a suggestion by this newspaper yesterday that the chamber must have a committee to address businessmen’s issues related to customs.

The customs union basically refers to a free trade bloc with common external tariff five percent duty is to be levied on goods imported from countries outside the GCC. Air, sea and land ports anywhere in the GCC that have direct connection with the outside world can be a single point of entry for imported goods meant for any member state.

Customs duty is to be paid at this port and only once after inspection of the goods subject to rules and regulations that are common for the region.

Prohibited goods are to be stopped. Certain goods are exempt from customs duty. An imported consignment could then be moved to the country of destination within the GCC.

The UAE’s Alittihad newspaper reported that customs revenues collected by each GCC state will be transferred automatically to the state concerned according to its share with effect from January 1 this year. The transfer is to be done within a month from the date of arrival of an imported consignment.

Abdul Qader Siddiqui from Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce was quoted as saying by Saudi Arabia’s Alyaum newspaper that full implementation of the customs union will further lift the economies of the GCC states and bolster internal trade.

Intra-GCC trade was worth barely $5bn in 1983 and now stands at over $100bn. It is anticipated to increase.

As part of the union, customs officials from one member state of the GCC can work in another. Such exchanges have started, Alyaum said.