(MENAFN - Arab News) The Arab League member countries are holding talks to formulate a rules of origin agreement (RO) governing commodities produced in Arab countries by the end of this year.
The agreement is aimed at determining the country of origin of each commodity. This is expected to help pave the way for the establishment of an Arab Free Trade Zone (FTZ.)
Muhammad Al-Tuwaijri, Arab League's assistant secretary-general for Economic Affairs, said the member countries were formulating a detailed RO, calling on member countries to be determined to formulate rules that take into consideration Arab countries' industrial factors and are compatible with the necessity to develop and integrate trade exchanges between them.
Previously officials held talks and discussed a 40 percent value-added tax on Arab commodities, which were later amended.
Current discussions were on points of negotiations that had previously been determined. Resulting agreements would be on specific principles that serve Arab trade, Al-Tuwaijri told Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.
In 2007 the member countries formulated preferential RO agreements, and so far detailed ROs were agreed upon for group Arab commodities, he said.
"Before approving the rules, their effects on bilateral trade exchanges and Arab countries' industrial abilities to adhere to them must be recognized, especially as the new rules come to amend previous ones approved by the Arab Economic and Social Council. The council previously raised the minimum value-added tax on some commodities from 40 to 50 and 60 percent," he added.
Products' Country of Origin (COO) is the foundation on which the process of commercial commodity exchange between countries takes place. Without it, it is not possible to determine a commodity's place of origin and consequently it will be difficult to categorize it, Al-Tuwaijri said, adding that COO data is necessary for determining customs duties and other customs procedures, including restrictions and obligations that countries have to apply according to countries' trade agreements and protocols.