Saudi Arabia Bid For WTO Accession Hits New Snags

By Agence France-Presse Saudi Arabia's attempt to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) has hit new snags, and negotiations on the kingdom's accession will now continue after the summer break, a WTO official said June 17. Fresh meetings between the Saudis and some of its future trading partners in Geneva this week "did not produce the expected breakthrough," a WTO official said. "The bilateral negotiation with the United States is not completed, and the negotiation with the [European Union], which looked settled a few weeks ago, now looks like it's having some last-minute hurdles," the official added on condition of anonymity. After their previous meeting in April, Pakistan's ambassador, Munir Akram, who is leading the talks, said they were in their "final stages" ahead of this week's "very substantial" meetings in Geneva. However, the United States said during meetings on Wednesday and Thursday that it still had outstanding concerns about the liberalization of the insurance industry in Saudi Arabia, the WTO official said. The European Union also raised new concerns about the Saudi insurance regulation and dual pricing for gas in the Gulf state, he added. Under WTO rules, a country wishing to join the organization must agree on arrangements with its main trading partners regarding market access and cutting customs duties, which are subsequently widened to all other WTO members. Saudi Arabia is hoping to conclude a deal to join the WTO before the end of 2004. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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