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Statement of the United States at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the United Arab Emirates

Statement of the United States by Deputy Permanent Representative Christopher Wilson at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the United Arab Emirates

Geneva, Switzerland
June 1, 2016

*As Delivered*

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.  I would like to join others in warmly welcoming Minister Al Mansoori and his distinguished delegation to Geneva for the United Arab Emirates’ third Trade Policy Review

The United States and the UAE enjoy a robust trade and investment relationship, with bilateral two-way goods trade continuing to expand – reaching $25 billion in 2015 – and the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in the UAE reaching $15 billion in 2014.

The United States continues to support the UAE’s efforts to diversify its economy away from reliance on trade in traditional commodities, and our governments continue to explore various means of further enhancing our trade relations.  Our governments also regularly consult with each other on issues of mutual importance and recognize the value of continued cooperation on a range of issues.  We appreciate our ongoing cooperation with the Emirates in all fora, including in the WTO, and are pleased to note that the UAE recently ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement and is in the process of preparing the deposition of its instrument of acceptance.

While the UAE has reason to be pleased with the results of its economic reforms to date, some concerns remain, and the written questions that the United States submitted in the context of this TPR address some of those concerns.  Many of the questions we pose today reflect our desire to encourage the UAE to move forward expeditiously on its efforts to improve the business environment, including those related to important WTO initiatives and commitments.

Along those lines, we are interested to hear the UAE’s plans to revise its legislation and regulations that restrict foreign investment and trade, including through requirements for majority ownership by UAE nationals, require foreign entities to act through an Emirati agent, and require the legalization – or consularization – of commercial documents before exporting to the UAE.  These types of market restrictions, and consularization in particular, are unnecessarily burdensome, adding to the challenges for SME exporters from African and other regional neighbors interested in participating in UAE’s market and we are not sure what purpose they serve.  We encourage the UAE to consider carefully the impact of these types of restrictions on the trading and investment climate.

The United States urges the UAE to continue to develop and further expand its efforts to ensure that technical regulations and standards are notified to WTO Members in draft form with enough advance notice that stakeholders have sufficient time to review and comment, and that Emirati authorities take those comments into account before finalizing the regulation or standard.  The United States has found that consultation with, and involvement by, all interested parties in the regulatory process leads to rules and regulations that better meet their objectives while minimizing trade distorting effects.  U.S. firms are committed to ensuring that their products meet relevant UAE technical regulations – as well as those of the Gulf Standards Organization – in order to access the UAE market. Sufficient advance notice and comment periods would help avoid recurrence of past instances where businesses were unaware of technical regulations in advance of implementation, leaving them with little or no time to modify their manufacturing processes.

Consultation with interested parties will be particularly critical regarding the GCC Guide for Control on Imported Foods, and we are interested in any updates that the UAE and its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council can provide on revisions to the Guide.

We are also interested to hear the UAE’s plans to address concerns regarding lack of border control and customs enforcement efforts against counterfeit goods in free trade zones, particularly the re-exportation of counterfeits.

We also strongly encourage the UAE to join the recently concluded expansion of the Information Technology Agreement and to become an observer to the WTO Committee on Government Procurement. We believe that the revision of the Government Procurement Agreement has facilitated accession to the GPA, and we strongly encourage the UAE to commence accession to the GPA as soon as possible.  These actions would be a good way for the UAE to boost its participation in the multilateral trading system, and we are interested to hear the UAE’s plans in this regard.

In addition, we urge the United Arab Emirates and its GCC partners to complete the transparency review of its customs union, as provided for under WTO rules.  In addition, as the GCC reduces trade barriers, harmonizes regulations and increases transparency, we encourage the UAE to work with its GCC colleagues to accelerate that important work in line, of course, with its WTO obligations.

We also note with significant interest and perhaps a bit of envy, the government’s initiative to establish and operationalize a State Ministry of Happiness.  There may be lessons for all of us in this.  We look forward to learning more about this during and after this review.

In closing, Chair, I would like to emphasize that the United Arab Emirates is a valued partner of the United States, and we congratulate the UAE for its efforts to develop a more open trade and investment regime.  We hope that this discussion today will encourage the UAE’s continuation of those policies and we look forward to continuing to work together to achieve those goals.  We thank the Government of the UAE in advance for its efforts to respond to our questions, and we plan to review its responses carefully and request clarifications as necessary during the course of this TPR. 

We wish the United Arab Emirates a successful review and we thank the delegation for its attention to our questions.  Thank you.