Oman receives enthusiastic WTO trade policy review

Business Monday 22/November/2021 19:48 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman receives enthusiastic WTO trade policy review

Muscat: Oman successfully concluded its third World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Policy Review in Geneva on Friday.

Conducted in the presence of representatives from 26 countries, the event provided an opportunity for Oman to outline its investment and trade policies as well as showcase economic development as, under the guidance of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, it progresses towards the goals of Oman Vision 2040 and builds a sustainable and diversified economy equipped to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities of the 21st century.

The Sultanate of Oman’s delegation to the Geneva WTO Trade Policy Review (TPR) was led by Qais Al Yousef, Minister of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion who expressed great satisfaction with the reception and commendation Oman received from WTO members for its overall trade and investment regime.

The Minister added: “Oman diligently implements trade policies consistent with its WTO obligations, maintaining an open, free and transparent economy, fully conforming to the basic principles and rules of the multilateral trading system. It is within this framework that we as a nation move forward with purpose in the international trading arena, enhancing and extending our competitive offer, growing a network of export markets and creating a pro-enterprise environment that is ever more attractive to international investors.”

Al Yousuf reported that WTO members welcomed the launch of Oman Vision 2040 and the long-term goals included in the 10th Five-Year Plan along with the continued prioritisation of diversification from hydrocarbons.

WTO members complimented Oman on its generally low tariffs and minimal non-tariff barriers to trade. Also receiving praise was the 10 per cent growth in Oman’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first half of 2021.

Members acknowledged the double challenge arising from low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic that Oman has faced during the trade review period, and were pleased with the measures taken by government to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, particularly on the most vulnerable in society.

In advance of last week’s meetings in Geneva, Oman received over 240 comments and questions from countries that included China, India, the USA, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Brazil, Singapore and Iceland, an indication of the keen interest taken by the international community in Oman’s continued growth and progress.

Members commended Oman for its strong commitment to the multilateral trading system and its active WTO participation, including its engagement in the negotiations on fishery subsidies and its track-record of submitting notifications.

Oman was also congratulated for ratifying the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and for having officially implemented 100 percent of its commitments under the Agreement since 2020. At the same time, Members encouraged Oman to join Joint Statement Initiatives, notably on e-commerce and domestic services regulation, and to become party to the Government Procurement Agreement.

Discussions on foreign investment featured prominently during Wednesday and Friday’s sessions in Geneva. Members applauded Oman for its improvements towards a stable investment environment. In particular, highlighting the adoption of the Commercial Companies Law and the Foreign Capital Investment Law enacted in 2020, and specifically for the abolition of foreign ownership limits.

Improvements to Invest Easy, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion’s one-stop-shop portal for registering new businesses were covered by Minister Al Yousef in his TPR address to WTO members on Wednesday afternoon.

Via Invest Easy, investors can now obtain approval for more than 1,500 economic activities - issuing one single document that includes all necessary licenses from ten leading authorities.

Minister Al Yousef reported to WTO members that since the launch of the new Invest Easy licensing service in April 2021, nearly 54,000 applicants had already received approvals.

WTO members also noted that reforms related to foreign capital investment, privatization, public-private partnerships and bankruptcy had improved Oman’s business environment and led to higher inflows of investment. Minister Al Yousef pointed out that FDI in Oman at the end of 2021 second quarter had climbed to $42.3 billion up from $39 billion for the same period in 2020.

The considerable diversification potential of Oman’s transport and logistics sectors was also highlighted by WTO members, particularly given the country’s strategic location on international trade routes and the government’s sizeable investment in ports, airports, free zones and industrial estates.

Other issues of interest for WTO Members included IPR protection; the participation of women in Oman’s economy; excise tax on carbonated beverages; the development of free zones and special economic zones; public procurement procedures and measures to create jobs for the younger generation.

Dr Saleh bin Said Masan, Undersecretary for Commerce & Industry at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion said: “we are encouraged and inspired by this positive approval of our trade and investment policies from international counterparts. Indeed, we look forward to further endorsements as the benefits of Oman Vision 2040 play an even greater role in our nation’s economy, enhancing trade, attracting investment and creating jobs.”