WTO begins to review UAE trade policy

While the UAE joined the WTO on April 10, 1996, it submitted its trade policy for review on March 20 this year. The global trade watchdog yesterday began reviewing the country"s trade policy by praising its liberal macro-economic environment. "The economy has grown by 6 per cent per year on average over the past decade and 9 per cent in 2003-05, although, despite some diversification, the UAE still depends on crude oil and gas exports for a significant share of its national income," the WTO said as the UAE made its case to the global trade body.

Echoing this, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Economy, said the UAE supported greater liberalisation of trade. "The service sector represents 50 per cent of the UAE"s GDP. There are currently 32 free zones in the UAE, which are paradises for foreign investment," she said in a statement. She criticisedg some developed countries, saying, "Some advanced countries have adopted precautionary practices that contradict the aims of the current negotiations to liberalise the service sector.

Economic growth in the UAE has witnessed a substantial increase over the last few years as nominal GDP has risen from Dh254 billion in 2001 to Dh379 billion in 2004, or by more than 14 per cent a year, said the government"s trade policy report.

"The government emphasises continued diversification away from dependence upon oil and gas to non-oil industries. This is evid-enced by the export mix of the UAE: non-oil exports were 52.3 per cent of total exports in the five years from 2000 to 2004 compared with 31.9 per cent in the 1970s and 29.5 per cent in the 1980s. The services sector is another policy focus; the growth of services will contribute to increased diversification and broad-based growth," it said.