GATT (The Arab countries and -)

At present only three Arab countries are signatories to GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs): Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are considering membership.

There are three reasons why Arab countries have taken little interest in GATT’s deliberations:

  • First of all, the talks have been dominated by commercial quarrels between the United States, Japan and the European Union.
  • Second, GATT has not so far taken hydrocarbons into consideration.
  • Third, there are conflicting reasons why countries in the region have taken little interest in GATT’s attempts to reduce trade barriers. On the one hand, countries (such as members of the GCC) which are heavily dependent on basic imports already apply low tarrifs. On the other hand, many states jealously guard trade barriers which are intended to protect domestic industries.

This could however change in the near future as an important aspect of the new GATT arrangements will be the effect on expansion of petrochemical trade estimated at over US$ 10bn by the beginning of the next century. Gulf countries can be expected to take the major share of this expanded business. Most countries in the region will also be able to exploit greater opportunities for their manufactured products. The impact will vary, however, between states currently outside international trading arrangements (which will gain) and those which already have free trade agreements with their major commercial partners, such as Israel (which will benefit less).

See also WTO, Arab and Mediterranean members