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> Statement by H.E. Dr.
Hashim A. Yamani
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The General Council Chair, Ambassador Amina Mohamed of Kenya, congratulated
Members for approving the accession of Saudi Arabia. “It is a great honour for
me to witness the constructive spirit in which these negotiations have been
completed. Members have taken not only a major step towards better international
economic cooperation but they have also allowed the World Trade Organization to
become more universal,” said Ambassador Mohamed.
The conclusion of those negotiations was also welcomed by Director-General
Pascal Lamy. “Today’s decision is a historic event for the WTO. Saudi Arabia is
on its way to becoming the WTO 149th Member, paving the way for a stronger
multilateral trading system. I look forward with great optimism to the Kingdom’s
participation in the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting,” said Mr. Lamy.
Saudi Arabia has been negotiating its membership since July 1993. It has
completed its package of documents presenting the Kingdom’s terms of accession
at the Working Party meeting on 28 October 2005. The legal texts, which run to
some 600 pages, were formally accepted by the 148 Member Governments of the WTO
at today’s special session of the General Council. Dr. Hashim A. Yamani,
Minister of Industry and Commerce, signed the Protocol of Accession with full
powers, thus accepting the Protocol on behalf of the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia will
become the 149th Member of the WTO thirty days later, on 11 December 2005.
As a result of the negotiations, Saudi Arabia has agreed to undertake a series
of important commitments to further liberalize its trade regime and accelerate
its integration in the world economy, while offering a transparent and
predictable environment for trade and foreign investment in accordance with WTO
Among the commitments undertaken by Saudi Arabia are the following:
The WTO Agreement will be applied uniformly throughout
Saudi Arabia’s customs territory.
Saudi Arabia agreed to review a fee charged for the
authentication of trade documents and to bring it into conformity with WTO rules
within two years of accession.
Saudi Arabia will eliminate any non-tariff measures
that cannot be justified under WTO rules while maintaining the right to restrict
the importation and exportation of a certain number of goods and services in
order to protect public morals, the life and health of the population, national
security interests, etc. In addition, Saudi Arabia has agreed to review the list
of banned imports at least once a year and to remove items the importation of
which would not compromise the legitimate objectives of the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia will not maintain any export subsidies on
Saudi Arabia will ensure that its producers and
distributors of natural gas liquids (NGLs) will operate on the basis of normal
commercial considerations, based on the full recovery of costs and a reasonable
In areas such as the protection of intellectual
property rights, the application of technical regulations and standards, as well
as the protection of food safety and human, animal and plant life and health,
Saudi Arabia will implement the relevant WTO Agreements in full from the date of
accession (i.e. the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the Agreement on the
Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures).
With the conclusion of market access negotiations on
goods, Saudi Arabia committed to gradually lowering trade barriers and expanding
market access for foreign goods. Saudi Arabia has bound all tariffs levied on
imports. At the end of the ten year implementation period, average bound tariff
levels will decrease to 12.4 and 10.5 per cent for agricultural and
non-agricultural products respectively. The individual tariff rates for
agricultural products will range from 5 to 200 per cent, with the highest rates
being applied to tobacco products and dates. Some 11 per cent of
non-agricultural products will be imported duty-free whereas the highest tariff
rate will affect wood, as well as iron and steel products. Most tariffs (92.6
per cent) will be set at their final bound rates at the date of accession. The
remainder will mostly be implemented in 2008 and 2010, but in no case later than
Foreign insurance companies will be permitted to open
and operate direct branches in Saudi Arabia. Commercial presence will also be
permitted for insurers that establish a locally incorporated cooperative
insurance joint-stock company, in which foreign participation is limited at 60
per cent. A three year transition period will be given to existing foreign
insurance providers to convert to either a Saudi cooperative insurance company
or to a direct branch of a foreign insurance company. During this transition
period, existing foreign insurance providers will be able to continue existing
business operations, as well as offer new products and service new clients.
Commercial presence of banks will be permitted in the
form of a locally incorporated joint-stock company or as a branch of an
international bank. Upon Saudi Arabia’s accession, the foreign equity cap for
joint ventures in banking will be increased to 60 per cent. While financial
services can only be provided by commercial banks, asset management and advisory
services may also be provided by non-commercial banking financial institutions.
Within three years from accession, Saudi Arabia’s
commitments will allow up to 70 per cent foreign equity ownership in the
telecommunications sector. These commitments apply to both basic
telecommunication services and value-added telecoms services. Public
telecommunications services will have to be provided by a joint stock company.
While Saudi Arabia will maintain some restrictions on
the distribution of goods inside the country, these restrictions will be phased
out over a three-year transition period.
of the Working Party WT/ACC/SAU/61
> Schedule of Concessions and Commitments on Goods
of Specific Commitments in Services, List of Article II MFN Exemptions
Video news release on the accession of Saudi Arabia
> Windows Media
> Real Media
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WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and Saudi Arabian Minister of Commerce
and Industry H.E. Dr. Hashim A. Yamani
Signing the protocol of accession
The delegation of Saudi Arabia