Jun 02 2012
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Sultanate vows to bolster trade co-operation with Palestine
According to Dr Louay Issa, Palestinian Ambassador to the Sultanate, huge untapped potential exists between Oman-Palestine trade relations. He highlighted a number of promising areas for increased bilateral economic co-operation and hoped things will improve soon. Khalil bin Abdullah al Khonji, Chairman, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( OCCI ), said recently that every effort must be exerted to develop and deepen economic co-operation between the two countries.
Al Khonji said: " OCCI has received an invitation to visit Palestine. Therefore, a delegation of Omani business leaders will tour Palestine in the second quarter of this year." Wasef said during this visit the two sides will discuss strengthening bilateral trade and investment opportunities, overview of economic growth in Palestine and the measures Palestinian authorities are taking to overcome the challenges arising from Israeli policies that choke off growth of Palestinian economy.
Palestine is a world leader in olive oil, Medjoul dates (King of dates), pure honey, furniture, and cosmetics, to name just a few. Importantly, since both Oman and Palestine are part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA), a big common market, there is no duty on products traded between the two countries. Palestine has made considerable progress in several sectors such as pharmaceutical, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), leather, and farm sector in spite of various difficulties arising from the activities of usurper Israel.
In recent years, particularly during the past two years when Palestine launched a programme to prepare all its institutions for attaining statehood, the country has been fast changing in many ways. And in this fast changing process, Oman and Palestine are natural partners thanks to their shared regional concerns, values, and heritage. Oman and Palestine have recent months on several occasions reconfirmed their commitment to the bilateral partnership on trade and commerce.
During the visit by Palestinian Trade Centre (Paltrade) delegation in March, Khonji had "a most excellent meeting" with Palestinian experts and covered a full range of issues in addition to bilateral relations.
They discussed the importance of the Oman-Palestinian bilateral relationship and agreed to strengthen co-operation in a range of areas. The Palestinians authorities have stressed the need to expand investment and trade relations with Oman and countries in this region Palestine in order to reduce their economy's dependence on Israel.
The Palestinians want the Arab and Muslim countries to invest more in Palestine and build better trade relations even as the brutal Israeli occupation continues. Occupation should not prevent Arabs from investing in Palestine, said Wasef. "The key to building an independent Palestinian economy with minimum or no dependence on Israel is the support of all Arab, Muslim, peace-loving, and independent nations in terms of investment, trade and commercial ties with us," added Wasef.
Oman is one of the few countries that have already signed Avoidance of Double Taxation agreement with Palestine.
Significantly, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has wholeheartedly supported the idea of increasing the presence of and promoting and patronising Palestinian products in Oman. Thus Omani authorities are keen and determined to strengthen bilateral relationship despite the difficult political situation that exists.
His Majesty the Sultan personally supports the Palestinian President's Trust Fund for Students in Lebanon. Oman also extends direct financial support in addition to the establishment of a host of hospitals, schools, colleges and universities in Palestine.
Palestinian experts hope that some of the Arab countries will reconsider their policy of no investment in Palestine till occupation continues. Strong Arab-Palestine economic relations are important because as of now, as much as 87 per cent of the Palestinian economy depends on Israel because of occupation, followed by Jordan, Egypt and European Union.
According to Oslo agreement, Palestine should have access to Israeli air, land and sea routes to export its products. But Israel has never honoured that agreement.
An independent Palestinian economy with strong trade ties with all countries is very important for generating jobs, reducing dependence on Israel and for developing the ability to face and control the unjust practices of the usurper and its backers.
Palestine is the only country in the world that continues to be under occupation, without an independent state of its own and faces most inhuman living conditions for the past 64 years.
Experts say the agreement to set up an Oman-Palestine Businessmen's Council will be an important step in the endeavour to expand economic co-operation and partnership with the oppressed people of Palestine.
The council will seek to enhance the bilateral economic and trade relations and facilitate businessmen to set up trade partnerships.
Omani businessmen would do well to build and expand partnerships with their Palestinian counterparts.
The economic and business relations between Oman and Palestine and other nations are set to expand in many ways.
Since 1999 there has been a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade
Association (EFTA) and Palestine. Both EFTA and GAFTA can be a source of a new era of trade and investment between Palestine, Arabs and Europe.
Oman supports the Palestinian civilian population through various humanitarian organisations and has contributed millions of rials in the construction colleges, hospitals and facilities for orphans and widows in Palestine.
Experts say Oman should put in place a strong "Omani Import Promotion Programme (OIPP) to support business development (food specialties, household textiles, furniture etc.) and must provide special shelf space to Palestinian products in hypermarkets.
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