Minister of Commerce Osama Ibn Jaafar Faqih, currently attending the Second Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has over the last two days held a number of bilateral meetings with commerce ministers and commercial representatives from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, as well as with ministers from Arab and Islamic states and members of the Islamic Development Bank, all of whom expressed support of the Kingdom's application for membership in the WTO.
Minister Faqih explained to them Saudi Arabia's request to be granted the same privileges of flexibility and a transitional status that have been given to other developing countries who have applied, and referred to the Kingdom's free economy system that is highly praised by its trade partners, as well as to the credibility reflected in its commitments to international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group. He went on to recall Saudi efforts to establish an economic infrastructure and to encourage investment. He pointed out that current Saudi levels of customs fees are in line with those of other, similar, WTO members, adding that the Kingdom does not impose additional fees on imports such as stamp duties, storage fees, transport fees, sales or added value taxes, as do a number of other countries.
The Saudi Commerce Minister stated that the Kingdom was fully prepared to join the WTO on the basis of mutual benefits and the realization of the interests of different parties, on an equal footing. He went on to announce that the Kingdom has completed the phase of providing the necessary information to the WTO and is now in that of bilateral and multi-lateral negotiations concerning penetration of markets. In this regard, there are available answers to 1,500 questions and more than one thousand pages of memos and studies in connection with the Kingdom's commercial, economic, and investment policies and systems. Saudi Arabia has also attended four rounds of multi-lateral negotiations and two rounds of bilateral negotiations.