PAFTA: the opening in the Pan-Arab Zone

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the members of the Pan Arab Free Trade Area (PAFTA), which was established in 1998 with the aim of creating an Arab Free Trade Area (also called the Greater Arab Free Trade Area -GAFTA-) by 2005, by progressively eliminating tariff barriers between its members.

In English-language literature, PAFTA is also known as the Greater Arab FTA (GAFTA). It includes 17 Arab countries in its membership: Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza, Kuwait, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen.

The main body responsible for the implementation of PAFTA is the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League.

In 2006, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia notified the PAFTA Treaty to the WTO under Article XXIV of the GATT 1994.

In addition to the above, a WTO report states that the elimination of tariffs among PAFTA members entered into force in January 2005, except for some products for reasons of public health, security, public morals and environmental protection.


According to the WTO, efforts continue to eliminate non-tariff barriers, in particular customs and administrative procedures at the border and transit fees.

For the past six years, PAFTA members have continued to participate in the Beirut Round of Negotiations on the Liberalization of Trade in Services among Arab States, launched in 2004.

Consequently, in February 2017, the UAE, together with other PAFTA countries, agreed on a list of commitments on trade in services.

The UAE then ratified the agreement to liberalize trade in services between the Arab States on March 10, 2020.

The authorities indicate that the UAE’s schedule of commitments under this agreement is similar to the UAE’s initial services offer in the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations.


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