GCC commerce ministers discussed plans to link regional stock exchanges and boost trade at a meeting in Riyadh on 6 April in an attempt to speed up the creation of a common market.

‘We will discuss how to improve the exchange of shares in public companies among the GCC,’ UAE Economy & Commerce Minister Said Ghobash says. Results of a study on how to liberalise share ownership and allow Gulf-wide share dealing in 1994 will be presented to the meeting. Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain allow other GCC citizens to invest in their stock exchanges, but Saudi Arabia allows only local banks to trade in shares. Qatar and the UAE are setting up their own stock markets.

Boosting regional trade is another priority. Of last year’s $123,000 million worth of trade in the GCC, only 7 per cent was among GCC states. Says Ghobash: ‘We will review how to facilitate re-exports of goods of foreign origin within GCC countries.’ Progress in establishing a common market, the GCC’s declared aim since 1981, has been slow.

GCC commerce ministers will also review the results of trade talks with the US. An agenda agreed with US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in January includes mechanisms to solve trade disputes, copyright and trademark protection.