ANNUAL trade between the GCC member states has now reached $140 billion from $6 million in 1995 when statistics were first launched, it has been revealed.

Foreign Minister Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani told MPs during their weekly session yesterday that Bahrain’s share stands at $8bn compared with $426,000 in 1995.

The minister, appearing for the first time this term in the chamber to respond to parliamentary questions, said Bahrain was keen on full integration so that GCC nationals can be treated equally by all member states.

“We have been working on full integration since the GCC was established in 1981,” said Dr Al Zayani.

“Since then things have progressed whether it be equal treatment of nationals in numerous vital fields, unified customs or the common market,” he added.

“We are pushing for more and more growth in all aspects with annual trade soaring between member states from $6m to an astonishing $140bn.”

He said preparations are underway to complete all requirements for the launch of the GCC Customs Union by the end of 2024.

Joint financial and economic committee meetings are being held to achieve this, aimed at a GCC Unified Economy by 2025.

The Customs union will see member states applying one common system of procedures, rules and tariffs for all or almost all imports, exports and transit goods.

Dr Al Zayani was responding to a question by Parliament’s second deputy speaker Ahmed Qarata on plans for the GCC union.

He said internal legislation, rules and procedures in member states were the biggest obstacles and talks were underway to unify them.

“Unifying legislations, rules and procedures takes time, but all related matters are being fast-tracked through the GCC Economic and Development Affairs Commission which is drawing up recommendations.

“In 2022, our joint efforts resulted in 29m GCC nationals moving between member states with ease within the year.

“At least 159,000 citizens of different Gulf countries owned properties in other member states over 10 years, 40,000 GCC students study in government schools in various member countries and 562,000 benefited from medical services in other Gulf states.

“Also, 33,000 GCC nationals are registered workers in other member states, 32,000 benefited from the social shield last year, 59,000 got commercial registrations, 558,000 owned stocks in 669 companies with the capital hitting $372m.

“Twenty-nine banks have branches within member states, GCC non-oil trade reached $81.9bn, joint foreign investment stood at $61bn, and there were more than 26,000 unified trade standardisation and by-laws.”

Dr Al Zayani added that Bahrain was open for further co-operation to secure more achievements at all levels.

“Co-operation is currently reflected through a bigger scope of joint commissions, legislation and mechanisms and more is on the way in education, health, culture, information, tourism, youth, sports, labour, social development, municipalities, agriculture, transportation, justice, Islamic affairs and endowments and other vital fields,” he said.

“We are currently working on enhancing joint work besides the Customs and common market, to include environment protection, resources and spread of diseases, the railway, consumer protection, military and security, foreign affairs and turning joint guidelines into unified laws and having partnerships with other countries as a unit.”

The GDN previously reported that GCC Interior Ministers had approved plans to launch the unified Gulf tourist visa during a meeting in Muscat earlier this month.

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