UAE urged to open access to public procurement market

3 April 2012

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3 April 2012 | Adam Leach

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has called on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to remove the requirement to employ a local worker in order to bid for contracts.

It also urged the country to join the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) - the reciprocal deal between nations that allows open access to public procurement markets - “as soon as possible”.

The call was made following the WTO’s second Trade Policy Review of the UAE, six years after the first was carried out, which concluded while progress had been made there were still a number of improvements to be completed. Regarding the country’s procurement policy, the WTO recommended an end to the policy requiring companies to employ a UAE national in order to submit a tender.

Current GPA members questioned the country’s policies and procedures on pricing and also other exemptions provided for SMEs and state-owned organisations.

Eduardo Munoz, the chairman of the WTO's Trade Policy Review Body, said: “A key challenge for the UAE is to expand foreign participation in investment projects outside free trade zones, for which the current 49 per cent foreign participation limit constitutes an obstacle.”

The WTO also called for greater competition in the provision of services, within the telecommunications and transport sectors in particular, citing the need to use local agents in some instances as a barrier to foreign participation and restricting competition.

The review praised the UAE for showing its commitment to multilateral trading by signing up to two regional trade agreements; the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Greater-Arab Free Trade Area.

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