WTO head urges Arab engagement

20 January 2003
Head of the WTO Supachi Panitchpakdi on 20 January urged Arab countries to increase their engagement with the organisation in order to attract foreign investment, increase growth and reduce unemployment. He also pledged to revive the stalled process of admitting Saudi Arabia, which has been ongoing since 1993. Speaking on a visit to Egypt, Panitchpakdi emphasised the potential for investment if economic liberalisation was implemented: the 22 Arab League members attracted only 2.9 per cent of the $204,000 million in foreign direct investment that flowed to developing countries in 2001. Of the 22, 11 are WTO members - Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Tunisia - and six are candidates - Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria. Panitchpakdi said that negotiations with Algeria and Lebanon were making progress, but that working panels for the candidacy of Libya and Syria were yet to be established. Thailand's former deputy prime minister and trade minister took over as WTO chief in 2002 promising to focus on the needs of poorer countries.

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