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Saudi Arabia Planning to Establish Free Trade Zones by 2015 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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File photo of a container ship being loaded. The Saudi government has arranged for the provision of shipping containers in Riyadh for companies wishing to export Saudi-made goods. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/Files)

File photo of a container ship being loaded. The Saudi government has arranged for the provision of shipping containers in Riyadh for companies wishing to export Saudi-made goods. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/Files)

Saudi Arabia is planning to establish free trade zones in the country by 2015, in the hope of promoting Saudi-produced goods abroad and the country’s potential as an entrepôt.

A high-level official within the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) confirmed that the prospect of free trade zones in Saudi Arabia is currently being discussed with specialized companies. Information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat confirms that these proposals will likely be implemented.

Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the Saudi minister of trade and industry, announced that coordination between his ministry and number of relevant national industries is nearly completed. He stated that a new body is likely to be created to oversee the implementation of free trade zones, which is expected to include qualified specialists with a significant role in servicing the Saudi industrial sector and its exports.

During a workshop on the development of export capabilities at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Riyadh, Dr. Al-Rabiha said: “The initiation of this project will be one of the important factors that contribute to effectively raising the rates of exported Saudi goods in different markets.”

Saleh Al-Rashid, the director general of Saudi Industrial Property Authority, revealed that his agency is currently working with a specialized company to review the proposal for the establishments of free trade zones in the kingdom, indicating that such areas would be one of the real means by which to promote Saudi Arabia as an entrepôt.

Al-Rashid added that “there is a suitable environment [in Saudi Arabia] to develop exports,” particularly in light of Saudi Arabia’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2005 and the Agreement on Facilitation and Development of Trade Among Arab States signed by the Arab League in 1981.

Al-Rashid told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Saudi Industrial Property Authority focused on many initiatives and cooperation with many actors in order to encourage factories to increase their export productivity through the development of logistical services. The authority also hopes to attract specialized shipping, storage and transportation companies in order to ensure transport and export.” He also noted that a contract had been made with a company that provides shipping containers to establish a container site in Riyadh’s Second Industrial City, which will service factories wishing to export.

Sulaiman Al-Tuwaijri, director general of Saudi Customs at King Khalid Airport in Riyadh, called on the Chamber of Commerce to take a coordinating role, saying: “Saudi Customs is still lacking coordination in their organizational and procedural methods. The Chamber of Commerce should tackle small flaws in customs capacity, as opposed to dealing with the larger affairs that customs deals with. Coordination is possible through the establishment of a managing office operated by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce to overlook all procedures taken up by businesses and coordinating these procedures with those of customs.”

Al-Tuwaijri stressed the importance of coordination on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce in order to deal with other issues associated with customs control, including in matters of procedure and regulation. He pointed out that the customs department deals with thousands of exports and requires a separate division to deal with irregularities, which will help reduce the volume of work and the time spent, two common problems within the sector.