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    2008年6月WTO对阿曼贸易政策审议-阿曼政府政策声明(英)

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    World Trade

    Organization

    RESTRICTED

     

    WT/TPR/G/201

    21 May 2008

     

     

    (08-2295)

     

     

    Trade Policy Review Body

    Original:  English

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    TRADE POLICY REVIEW

     

    Report by

     

    Oman

     

     

     

     

    Pursuant to the Agreement Establishing the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (Annex 3 of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization), the policy statement by Oman is attached.

     

    Note:    This report is subject to restricted circulation and press embargo until the end of the first session of the meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body on Oman.



    CONTENTS

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Page

    I.              introduction 5

    II.            ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT                                                                                                                              5

    (1)           Economic Growth                                                                                                                             5

    (2)           Diversification of the Economy                                                                                                 6

    (3)           Privatization                                                                                                                                     7

    (4)           Investment Regime                                                                                                                           8

    (5)           Monetary and Exchange Rate Policies                                                                                10

    (6)           Fiscal Policy                                                                                                                                     10

    (7)           Human Resource Development                                                                                                 10

    (8)           Future Outlook                                                                                                                              11

    III.           TRADE POLICY DEVELOPMENTS                                                                                                                  12

    (1)           Objectives                                                                                                                                           12

    (2)           Tariffs                                                                                                                                                  13

    (3)           Other Measures Affecting Imports                                                                                        13

    (4)           Import Procedures, Registration, and Documentation                                               14

    (5)           Trade Remedy Laws (Anti-Dumping, Countervailing, and Safeguard Measures) 14

    (6)           Government Procurement                                                                                                          14

    (7)           Measures Directly Affecting Exports                                                                                 14

    (8)           Export Subsidies, Domestic Subsidies, Export Credit Guarantees, TRIMs              14

    (9)           Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)                                                 15

    IV.           SECTORAL DEVELOPMENTS                                                                                                                          15

    (1)           Agriculture                                                                                                                                      15

    (2)           Fisheries                                                                                                                                               15

    (3)           Oil Sector and Mining                                                                                                                  16

    (4)           Manufacturing                                                                                                                                16

                    (5)           Services – Banking and Financial, Telecom, and Tourism                                            16

    (a)           Financial Services Sector – Banking Sector                                                                     16

    (b)           Tourism                                                                                                                                  18

    V.            FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS                                                                                                                           18

                    (1)           Regional Agreements                                                                                                                   18

    (a)           GCC Customs Union                                                                                                            18

    (b)           Pan Arab Free-Trade Area                                                                                                  19

    (2)           Bilateral Agreements                                                                                                                 19

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Page

    VI.           OMAN, WTO, AND DOHA DEVELOPMENT AGENDA                                                                             19

                    (1)           Oman and WTO                                                                                                                                 19

                    (2)           Oman's Participation in DDA                                                                                                     20

    VII.          FUTURE DIRECTION OF TRADE POLICY                                                                                                     20

    AnnEx:  technical assistance needs of oman                                                                                        22

     

                                                      

     


    I.                   introduction

    1.                   The Renaissance of Oman led by His Majesty the Sultan ushered in the new and modern age for the Sultanate of Oman.  In a short period of less than 40 years, Oman has been transformed from a less developed economy characterized by a low standard of living with subsistence agriculture as the main source of income of the population into a modern state with a stable and strong economy, a high standard of living and increasing work opportunities for its young and growing population.

    2.                   In the wise words of His Majesty, the economy is the main concern of the Sultanate of Oman, with the aim of improving the standard of living of the people, ensuring that they benefit from the fruits of development.

    3.                   Successive Five Year Development Plans have been pursued towards self-sustained growth in a private sector-led, export-oriented economy with diversified sources of national income.

    4.                   The long term goals of Oman are laid down in "Oman Economic Vision 2020", where main policy areas are as follows:

    ·                     Development of human resources and upgrading Omani skills and competencies to keep abreast with the technological progress.

    ·                     Creation of a stable macroeconomic framework aimed at development of a private sector capable of the optimal use of human and natural resources of Oman.

    ·                     Encouraging the establishment of an effective and competitive private sector.

    ·                     Providing appropriate conditions for the realization of economic diversification.

    ·                     Enhancing the standard of living of the people, reduction of inequality among regions and among various income groups and ensuring that the fruits of development are shared by all citizens.

    ·                     Preserving the past achievements and safeguarding and developing them.

    5.                   Oman received Sultan Qaboos Prize for the maintenance of the environment "first Arab Award" granted by UNESCO in the area of caring for the environment at the international level. 

    6.                   Oman was ranked 1st in the Arab Economic Freedom Index by the International Research Foundation, and 18th place in Global Economic Freedom Index by Fraser Institute in the year 2007.  In addition, Oman has been described as the least politically risked in MENA region as per Aon Political risk Map 2007.

    II.                ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

    (1)               Economic Growth

    7.                   The economy of Oman has witnessed high economic growth coupled with relatively low inflation during the past years.  The GDP at market prices grew by 7.2% in 2003, 13.6% in 2004, 24.6% in 2005 and 15.6% in 2006.  The lesser rate of 2006 compared with that of 2005 is because of higher oil prices in 2005 as compared with 2006.

    8.                   The growth rate of real GDP in 2006 at constant 1988 prices was 7.2% as compared with 6.0% in 2005, 5.4% in 2004 and 2% in 2003.

    9.                   An analysis of the composition of GDP shows that in 2006, the share of oil and gas in GDP was 44.9% while that of non-petroleum activities was 53.1%.  The share of agriculture was only 1.3%, that of industry was 14.2%, while services account for 37.7%.

    10.               Provisional data for 2007 indicates that nominal GDP of Oman in the first six months of 2007 increased by 8.3% compared with the first six months of 2006.  The growth rate of non-oil sector in the first six months of 2007, compared with the corresponding period of 2006, was 16.9%. 

    11.               The long term growth of real GDP, as envisaged in Oman Vision 2020 and in the Seventh Five Year Development Plan (2006-2010) is projected at not less then 3%, coupled with an average inflation rate of not more than 2%.

    (2)               Diversification of the Economy

    12.               As stated in the introductory part of this report, one of the four pillars of the economic policy of Oman is diversification.  Oman Vision 2020 stipulated that Oman would no longer be an oil-reliant economy in 2020.  It is envisaged to be a diversified economy with higher levels of savings and investments.  The sources of national income will be diversified with the non-oil sector assuming the primary role.

    13.               The targets of Oman Vision 2020 are:

    (i)                  Crude oil sector's share of GDP is estimated to drop to around 9% in 2020 compared   with 44.9% in 2006;

    (ii)                The gas sector is expected to contribute around 10% to GDP in 2020 compared to       3.6% in 2006;  and

    (iii)               Non-oil industry's contribution is expected to rise from 14.2% in 2006 to 29% in    2020.

    14.               These are ambitious targets and progress is being made to achieve these targets.

    15.               The share of gas sector in GDP over the last five years has increased from 2.1% in 2002 to 3.6% in 2006.  The share of industry has increased from 11.5% of GDP in 2002 to 14.2% in 2006.  The share of services sector, however, declined from 46.8% in 2002 to 37.7% in 2006.  It is worth noting that the share of industry and services would have been higher but for the steep rise in oil prices between 2002 and 2006.  Non-oil industrial activity increased from 11.5% of GDP in 2002 to 14.2% in 2006.  The manufacturing sector increased from 4% of GDP in 1995 to 11.3% in 2006. 

    16.               The progress and success of diversification is borne by the fact that the share of non-oil and non-gas exports to total exports of Oman increased from 6.8% in 2003 to 9.8% in 2006.  Whereas the total exports increased by 85% between 2003 and 2006, non-oil exports increased by 167% over the same period.  The percentage increase of non-oil exports for the last four years is as follows:  16.2% in 2003, 38.2% in 2004, 32.1% in 2005 and 46.3% in 2006.  These are impressive figures by any account.

    17.               A conscious policy effort has been made to achieve diversification of the economy.  The gas sector, industry and tourism are the main areas for achieving diversification.  A major achievement in this direction was completion of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project at a cost of US$2.5 billion.  It is the single biggest project for economic diversification.  LNG is set to become the country's major non-oil earner and expected to generate US$24 billion over the coming 25 years.  Other gas based project include:  Oman-India Fertilizer Project, Sohar International Urea and Chemical Industries, Methanol Project, Sohar Oil Refinery, Polypropylene Project, Aluminium Project, Ethylene Dichloride Project and Iron and Steel Plant.

    18.               The LNG project has also provided the stimulus for the setting up of Oman Shipping Company for carrying LNG in tankers.

    19.               Tourism is another promising area for achieving diversification.  A number of big tourism projects are under implementation or in planning stages which would enhance the share of Services in Gross Domestic Product of Oman.

    20.               Economic diversification is one of the important pillars of Oman's economic policy and it will continue to occupy centre stage in Oman's Economic Development Plans leading to 2020.

    (3)               Privatization

    21.               The privatization programme of Oman has the twin objectives of reducing the role of state in economic activity and fostering the development of an efficient and competitive private sector, unleashing its vigour and vitality thus contributing to overall efficiency and dynamism of the economy.  The Government is implementing the privatization programme as an important and high priority policy area.

    22.               Privatization as a policy measure has been adopted by the Government as part of the overall liberalization programme and diversification in the non-oil sector to broaden the base of the economy.  The legal foundation of the privatization programme is the Privatization Law promulgated by Sultani Decree in July 2004.  The objectives of the Law are:

    ·                     Diversification of national income resource and expansion of the production base of the country.

    ·                     The provisions of opportunities to the private sector to contribute to the development of the national economy and encouragement of foreign investment and attraction of technical and administrative expertise and modern technology.

    ·                     Mobilization of  the market activity and creation of competition and enhancement of the efficiency of resource utilization.

    ·                     Reduction of the financial and administrative burden on the general.

    ·                     The government to undertake the required strategic investments in the areas of basic services which could not be undertaken by the private sector.

    ·                     Promotion and development of the capital market.

    ·                     Increase employment opportunities for citizens in the private sector.

    23.               The most notable success achieved in privatization has been in the electricity sector where a number of independent power projects have been contracted to the private sector.

    24.               Other important areas and sectors of privatization are the following:

    ·                     Power and Related Water Sector, where Manah Power Project and Salalah Power System were contracted (BOOT), while Al-Kamil Independent Power and Water Desalination Project and Sohar Independent Power and Water Desalination Project were privatized (BOO).  Three other Independent Power Projects are under implementation.

    ·                     Water Desalination Project in Sur.  The project is privatized and under implementation.

    ·                     Telecommunications Sector, where the Government telecommunication organization (GTO) was converted into a commercial company (Omantel), as a first step leading to privatization.  30% of the company's shares have been offered to the public as well as to the Pension Fund.  Part of the Government share in the company will be sold to a strategic investor this year.

    ·                     Land phone and mobile phone operations were split into two separate companies in 2004.  A second mobile phone license has been given to a foreign investor by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA).

    ·                     Transport Sector is another major area of privatization:

    (1)          Salalah, Sohar and Sultan Qaboos ports have been partially privatized by inducting      private sector including foreign investors in management and operation of these ports. 

    (2)          A committee has been formed in 2006 to restructure and supervise the business plan of Oman National Transport Company, and to take necessary actions required to        prepare the company for privatization.

    (3)          The Government is in the process of appointing consultants to restructure transport    sector throughout the Sultanate, establish appropriate law and legislative and      regulatory environment to allow private sector investment in the sector.

    ·                     Postal service has been restructured by establishing Oman Postal Company which will be prepared for privatization.

    ·                     Water and Wastewater Sector:  (1) the Government is working on restructuring the sector;  (2) independent companies, Salalah Sanitary Drainage Services and Muscat Waste Water Company (currently fully owned by Government) are already operating in the waste water sector.  They will be taken up for privatization once their operations stabilize.

    ·                     Solid and Hazardous Waste Sector:  The Government is working on restructuring the sector and a holding company has been formed to overlook the project. 

    25.               Privatization process will remain an important area of economic policy in the coming years and the government will vigorously pursue the privatization programme.

    (4)               Investment Regime

    26.               Oman has pursued an open and liberal investment policy by welcoming and encouraging both domestic and foreign investment.  The objective of the policy is to achieve diversification by gradually reducing dependence on oil as the dominant source of income and by promoting the development of manufacturing, services, tourism and fisheries sectors.  The objectives also include job creation for the expanding, well educated Omani work force, the development of management skills and transfer of technology.

    27.               The investment regime is underpinned by Foreign Capital Investment Law.  A number of WTO-consistent incentives are provided to encourage domestic and foreign investment.  These include no personal income tax, while the rate of corporate income tax is a flat rate of 12% applicable to all companies registered in Oman, whether wholly Omani owned, wholly foreign owned or joint venture companies with any percentage of foreign equity However, branches of foreign companies are taxed at a different rate which is under review.  Tax holiday for a period of five years, which is extendable for another five years, is allowed both for foreign and domestic investment projects.

    28.               Omani legislation provided that foreign investment projects cannot be expropriated or confiscated except in case of public interest and that too against fair compensation.  Repatriation of capital and profits is allowed freely without any restrictions or controls. 

    29.               One Stop Shop (OSS) is an e-Government initiative to provide on-line company registration facilities through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI).  The OSS is a highly useful service which will enable investors to set up companies in Oman while minimizing paperwork, saving costs and time.  Time taken for registration of new companies is drastically reduced to less than a day as against 10-14 days in the past.  The number of commercial registration has increased from 733 per month to 1,306 per month which is around 93% growth within one year of OSS implementation.  Six Ministries and entities participate in the OSS:

    ·                     Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI).

    ·                     Royal Oman Police (ROP) Civil Defense and Immigration.

    ·                     Ministry of Manpower.

    ·                     Muscat Municipality.

    ·                     Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).

    ·                     Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs.

    30.               Oman is a member of international institutions concerned with investment protection and guarantee such as New York based International Centre for Settling Investment Disputes and Multinational Investment Guarantee Agency.

    31.               Encouragement of foreign investment is one of the important pillars of Oman's economic policy.  Oman believes in the role that could be fulfilled by foreign investment in economic development, creation of jobs for Omanis, transfer of technology and opening of markets for Omani products.

    32.               Foreign direct investment was RO 0.9 billion in 2003 which increased to RO 2.3 billion in 2006 showing an increase of about 143%.

    33.               Oman would continue its policy of encouraging foreign and domestic investment.  Foreign Capital Investment Law is being revised to make it even more liberal and investor friendly. 

    (5)               Monetary and Exchange Rate Policies

    34.               The Monetary Policy of Oman is conducted by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), which primarily dovetails into liquidity management because of the fixed peg of the Rial Omani (RO) to the U.S. dollar.  The nominal exchange rate of the RO against the U.S. dollar is the intermediate target of monetary policy, and defending the exchange rate peg is the primary objective of the CBO to achieve thereby the goals of price stability, financial stability and growth in an open economy.  Imported monetary discipline embodied in the fixed peg has been a strong source of monetary and financial stability.  Credibility and certainty of the exchange rate has helped in promoting trade and investment as well as stability in the financial system.

    35.               In recent years, there has been a shift from the use of direct instruments of monetary control (primarily in the form of reserve requirement and lending ratios) to market-based indirect instruments involving open market operations mainly through the purchase and sale of government securities and CBO certificates of deposits (CDs).  Banks can repo CDs treasury bills and development bonds and have access to foreign exchange swap facility, rediscounting and other standing lending facilities.  These measures ensure injection of liquidity to the financial system when the liquidity situation gets tight.  In turn, when the market liquidity conditions remain in surplus, CBO absorbs those surpluses through CBO CDs.

    36.               At the present time, Oman will continue with its current exchange rate regime and Rial Omani will remain pegged to the U.S. dollar.

    37.               The current policy of the Government of Oman is to remain out of the proposed GCC Monetary Union while still being part of the GCC Common Market Process.   

    (6)               Fiscal Policy   

    38.               The fiscal policy of Oman is aimed at striking a healthy balance in revenues and expenditure.  Since 2002, Oman has witnessed budget surplus thanks to high oil prices.  Sustained fiscal surplus positions have allowed the Government to continue with debt restructuring policy, which is evidenced by the general decline in both debt to GDP ratio and debt service ratio.

    39.               Favourable budgetary position has also enabled the Government to increase current and investment expenditures, especially the latter which increased by 24% in 2006.

    40.               Surplus fiscal balance as percentage of GDP ranged from 0.7% to 2.6% between 2002 and 2006.  Total revenue and total expenditure as percentage of GDP were about 36%.

    41.               Budget for 2007 was based on a conservative price of oil.  It provided for increase of 15.4% in expenditure compared with 2006, which was aimed at promoting growth in various sectors of the economy as part of economic diversification strategy and improving provision of government services to the public.  The major source of government revenues is oil and gas whose share in total revenues in 2006 was 76%.  The share of customs duties in total revenue was 10% while that of corporate income tax was 7.6%.

    42.               The position on personal and corporate income tax is described in paragraph 27 above.

    (7)               Human Resource Development

    43.               Development of human resources and upgrading the skills of Omani nationals to keep abreast of technological changes, to meet the demands of a knowledge-based economy and of increasing globalization, has been and will continue to be a policy area of highest importance in Oman's development planning.  In the ringing words of His Majesty the Sultan "the human being is the ultimate goal of the development process and its instrument and means at the same time".  Expansion of university education, raising of enrolment ratio in higher education and professional institutions, upgrading and spreading of basic education and youth programmes will all continue to receive highest priorities in development plans.  With updated basic education, technical and vocational training, skill formation and specialization in the relevant fields, the growing number of Omani youths entering the labour market will be made well equipped for productive employment in the private sector and in the labour intensive projects.  Government gives top priority in allocating resources for implementation of programmes relating to education and training sectors.  Development of human resources and upgrading the skills of Omanis will continue to be the primary focus of Oman's development efforts. 

    44.               Policy wise, Omanization came to be known as a policy through which national workforce's education and training are enhanced.  The policy aims to reduce the national unemployment, regulate, and expand opportunities for national labour to participate in various economic sectors and to make national labour available for private companies.  Through such polices the banking sector as an example has achieved more than 90% Omanization. 

    45.               Omanization was formulated to plan national's training, define criteria, procedures and steps to implement the plan, employ the national youth and women, evaluate experiences and skills, coordinate efforts, and make suggestions for programs to encourage Omani individual initiatives seeking own employment and developing small projects.  Sanad, Youth Fund, Intilaaqah and other similar training and employment programs are within the Omanization policy.

    46.               Supply of foreign labour is continuously increasing at a greater rate than the Omani labour supply.  Omanization works within set of targets with ambitious long term vision which aims not only to make the national labour available at an increasing rate of supply, but also to be competitive enough to be able to meet the fundamental changes and needs in work conditions and environment within the private sector.      

    (8)               Future Outlook

    47.               With sound macro-economic, monetary and fiscal policies in place, remarkable success and all-round achievements of the Fifth and Sixth Five Year Plans and the excellent start of the Seventh Plan (2006-2010), continued buoyancy of oil prices since 2003 and favourable medium term projections, Oman has a positive future outlook.  In a recent IMF projected base-line scenario for Oman, the real GDP is expected to grow at 5%-6% per annum during 2006-2010 period.  This is based on the assumption of continuance of present policies and the oil prices not falling too low in the medium term and remaining around average US$60 a barrel (as per the present international projections of oil prices). 

    48.               The hydrocarbon sector's contribution is expected to increase in the next few years, but slowing down starting 2009.  The non-hydrocarbon sectors are expected to steadily grow at the rate of 7.2% and above in the 2007-2011 period.  Fiscal indicators are expected to improve with non-hydrocarbon revenues rising and the public expenditure to GDP ratio falling.  On the external side, debt is projected to decline and government reserves to increase.  Growth and employment prospects for the rising number of young Omanis would, according to IMF appraisal, depend on "maintaining financial and macro-economic stability and on the success of Oman's ambitious diversification programme".  With successful macro-economic policies, gains of the Plans, and the continuing large investments in diversification schemes and in human resource development, Oman faces the future with confidence.

    49.               However, there are definitely downside risks – exogenous and endogenous.  A recognized problem is the continuing decline in oil production largely dictated by the geological location and the age of oil reserves.  To shore up production, plans are being implemented to invest about US$13 billion in oil and gas over the next five years to achieve a 50% ultimate recovery of oil in place, tapping heavy oil fields (with higher costs of extraction), new discoveries etc.  The other risk is a sharp fall in oil prices, however improbable it may look now.  A big drop in oil prices would be a serious setback, slowing down growth, generation of employment etc.  With the rapid development of gas and the gas based industries and other diversification projects in the last decade, Oman is now expected to be far better prepared and resilient to withstand such oil shocks in future and surge ahead on her growth path.

    50.               The future of Oman's economy is bright as the very policies of the past which transformed Oman to its present stage will be continued in the future with emphasis on diversification, privatization and liberalization.  Time tested policies are the recipe for future growth and progress.   

    III.             TRADE POLICY DEVELOPMENTS

    (1)               Objectives

    51.               An ancient trading nation whose ships ruled the ocean waves for centuries, the Sultanate of Oman appreciates and recognizes the value of open and liberal trade policies, and firmly believes in these policies.

    52.               The Sultanate of Oman joined the World Trade Organization as a member in November 2000, after completing the accession process under Article XII of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization.  The Sultanate of Oman thus follows WTO rules in the formulation and implementation of its trade policies.  Even before acceding to the WTO, Oman's trade policies followed the basic principles of the multilateral trading system.

    53.               The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, headed by His Excellency the Minister, is the focal point for implementation of trade policies.  Proposals for formulation of specific trade policies are initiated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, where relevant in consultation with concerned Ministries, and are submitted to the Cabinet for approval, and if necessary, for example by issuance of Sultani Decrees, for final approval to His Majesty the Sultan.  Trade policies are implemented at the national level.  There are no regional or sub-regional governments in Oman. 

    54.               The objectives of trade policies of Oman are to maximize development of Oman's economy with a view to ensuring prosperity, raising living standards and providing increased employment opportunities to the people.  The trade policies thus aim at expansion of trade by removing or reducing barriers to imports and exports, and by securing greater market access for Omani products and services.

    55.               Oman attaches great importance to standards, conformity assessment and quality for facilitating trade, economic and industrial development, technology transfer, human resource and skill upgrading and safety and well being of the population at large.  Oman strongly believes in the important role of trade and fair treatment to all the stakeholders; it is Oman's endeavours to harmonize Omani and Gulf (GCC) standards as-far-as-possible with International Standards and also to use International Standards and concepts for conformity assessment within the requirements of WTO principles on TBT and SPS.  The Directorate General for Specifications and Measurements (DGSM) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is actively assisting Omani trade and industry and entities in this regard and is progressively widening into SMTCQ (Standards, Metrology, Testing, Conformity Assessment and Quality) services based on international approach and WTO-TBT-SPS principles.  The Omani National Enquiry Point and Information Centre (NEPIC) for WTO-TBT-SPS is also operating at DGSM.  The Annual Report 2006 of DGSM Oman has already been submitted to WTO separately.

    (2)               Tariffs

    56.               Oman has bound import tariffs on all agricultural and non-agricultural products, without any exceptions.  Thus 100% of its duties are bound.

    57.               The simple average of its bound tariffs for all products is 13.8%.  The simple average of bound tariffs for non-agricultural products is 11.6%, whereas for agricultural tariffs it is 28%.  It is interesting to note that a little more then 88% of Oman's imports are of non-agricultural products for which, as noted earlier, the average bound tariff is 11.6%.

    58.               The actually applied MFN tariffs of Oman are considerably low:  simple average for non-agricultural products is 4.8% and for agricultural products is 5.3%.  The weighted average applied tariffs for non-agricultural products is 4.7% and for agricultural products it is 3.5%.

    59.               Bound tariffs for agricultural products range from 5% to 200%, whereas for non-agricultural products these range from 0% to 25%.  However, bound tariffs for more than 97% of non-agricultural tariff lines are 15% or less.

    60.               Preferential tariffs treatment is accorded to imports from GCC Member States and from Arab countries members of the Pan Arab Free-Trade Area by allowing duty free imports.  Duty free treatment will also be applicable to imports from USA when the US-Oman Free-Trade Agreement becomes operational.

    61.               Oman does not apply any tariff quotas and does not apply any variable levies.  Tariff revenues are a minor source of public revenue.  Their share in public revenue is 2.3%.      

    (3)               Other Measures Affecting Imports

    62.               Oman does not apply any other duties and charges on imports which are bound at zero in its Schedule of Tariff Concessions and Commitments.

    63.               Oman also does not apply any internal taxes to imports such as VAT, sales tax or excise duties.

    64.               There are only a handful of import prohibitions and restrictions, justified under Articles XX and XXI of GATT 1994 for security, health and safety reasons or necessary to protect public morals.  A notification on Quantitative Restrictions was submitted to the WTO Secretariat.

    65.               Oman does not apply import licensing and this has been confirmed in its recent notification. 

    66.               Oman has implemented the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation for valuation of imported goods.  The rules and procedures of the Agreement are applied by the Custom Department.

    67.               Preferential rules of origin are applicable to imports from GCC Member States and from Arab countries members of the Pan Arab Free-Trade Area.  Origin is conferred if at least 40% value is added in GCC or Arab countries.  There are no rules of origin for MFN imports.

    (4)               Import Procedures, Registration, and Documentation

    68.               Oman does not have any special or specific procedures or documentation for imports nor does it require any special registration for imports.  Any firm or individual, whether Omani or foreign, which has commercial registration in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for engaging in any commercial activity can engage in importation if import trade is one of the activities mentioned in its commercial registration.  Any firm or individual can inscribe or add import trade in its commercial registration. 

    (5)               Trade Remedy Laws (Anti-Dumping, Countervailing, and Safeguard    Measures)

    69.               GCC Member States have a common Trade Remedy Law which is applicable in all GCC countries including Oman.  However, Oman has never taken an action under this law, as yet. 

    (6)               Government Procurement

    70.               Government procurement is regulated under Government tender regulations and unified rules granting preferences in Government purchases to national and GCC origin products.

    71.               Government purchases exceeding RO 10,000 are made by public tendering, except for Ministry of Defence and for Defence Forces.  Tendering procedures are laid down in the law.  The tender procedures and purchases are administered by a high level Tender Board which has jurisdiction over higher level tenders (RO 250,000 and more) while lower level tenders were administered by tender committees within the Ministries.

    72.               Oman tender regulations provide for price preference to be given to products of Omani origin, and in the absence of Omani products, to products of GCC origin.  The preference margin amount to 10% compared to the price of similar foreign products.

    (7)               Measures Directly Affecting Exports

    73.               Like imports, there are no special or specific procedures or documentation requirements for exports.  As in the case of imports (described earlier), any firm or individual, Omani or foreign, who has commercial registration and whose commercial registration mentioned the activity of trading could engage in export trade.

    74.               Export prohibitions are very few.  These include antiques, ancient manuscripts, old coins and date seedlings.  Export restrictions are applied to three species of fish during the breeding and reproduction season for environmental reasons.

    75.               Oman does not apply any export duties or taxes.  Nor does it apply any export licensing procedures.  Nor does Oman apply any export performance requirements.

    (8)               Export Subsidies, Domestic Subsidies, Export Credit Guarantees, TRIMs

    76.               Oman does not apply any export subsidies.  It has given a commitment that it neither would maintain nor introduce prohibited subsidies as defined in the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.

    77.               Oman Development Bank provides soft loans to industries.  However, these soft loans are available to all enterprises and all industries.  There is no specificity in these loans.

    78.               The Export Credit Guarantee Agency (ECGA) which commenced its operations since 1991 plays a vital role in promoting Omani non-oil exports by providing credit insurance and financial services to exporters.  Export facilities extended by ECGA include export credit insurance which covers the risks of non-payment due to commercial and non-commercial risks, domestic credit insurance covers the risks for local buyers, and post-shipment financing of exports through bills discounting with commercial banks as well as pre-shipment export credit guarantee.

    79.               There are no trade-related investment measures (TRIMs) applicable in Oman.

    (9)               Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

    80.               Oman had enacted and implemented Intellectual Property Laws and has been actively enforcing these laws.  Oman is now in the process of issuing some revised IP laws providing for higher level of protection.  These revised laws would soon be promulgated.     

    IV.              SECTORAL DEVELOPMENTS

    (1)               Agriculture

    81.               Agriculture sector in Oman consists of agriculture and livestock.  It is a relatively smaller sector of Oman's economy.  Its share in Oman's economy is 0.9%.  However, the sector has social implications as a proportionately larger section of the population 226,542 persons is dependent on agriculture.  This explains the importance of this sector in providing work opportunities and its importance in the national economy.

    82.               The current food security and self-sufficiency rates are encouraging.  The latest estimates indicate that Oman is fully self sufficient in some fruit (dates and bananas) and some vegetables when they are in season; but only 53% self-sufficiency in milk, 50% in eggs, 46% in beef, 23% in mutton, 13% in poultry and 75% in feedstuff.  Despite the harsh climate and difficult environment for agriculture with attendant disadvantages for farmers, Oman does not provide trade distorting domestic support to agriculture.  Oman has also given a commitment not to apply export subsidies to agriculture.  The only form of support to agriculture is through Green-Box measures, mostly in the form of general services.  In 2006, the Green-Box support amounted to RO 764,514 (a little less than US$2 million).  Oman has also provided liberal market access for agricultural products by binding its tariffs at a relatively low level.

    (2)               Fisheries

    83.               Fisheries is a sector that makes an important contribution to domestic income and provides Omani citizens food and jobs.  Fisheries sector is considered as the most important source of protein production.  Furthermore, 2.4% national employees are working in the fisheries sector.  The number of fishermen increased during the previous five years from 28,576 in the year 2000 to 32,744 in the year 2005.

    84.               The Ministry's plans include searching for a fleet that is able to exploit fisheries resources, raise production and improve quantity and quality, thus increasing the employees' income in the sector.  To reach these goals, a number of fishing gears and necessities have been distributed for updating the industrial fishing fleet and increasing fishery quality.

    85.               The value of fisheries sector in GDP increased from US$147 million in the year 2003 to US$198.9 million in 2006.  This comes as a result of the implementation of government investments in the infrastructure and also by using procedures to increase the fisheries quality.  The private sector plays an important role in development of this sector.

    86.               Exports of fish and fish products increased from 69,000 tons in 2003 to 82,375 tons in 2006.  The share of fish in non-oil exports of Oman was 4.7% in 2005.

    87.               The economic vision 2020 envisages development of fisheries sector raising its contribution to GDP to 2% by the year 2020.

    (3)               Oil Sector and Mining

    88.               Oil is the mainstay of Oman's economy.  Its share in Oman's GDP is 44.9%.  Oil accounts for about 67% of total exports, while oil and gas account for about 81% of total exports.  The mining and quarrying sector registered average annual growth rate of 6% which is more than the Plan target of 4.5%.

    (4)               Manufacturing

    89.               The share of manufacturing in Oman's GDP is about 10.4%.  Oman's industrial policy aims to increase this share to 15% of GDP in 2020.  Permissible type of investment incentives were provided for establishment of industries, such as, soft loans to all sectors, fully serviced industrial estates and reliable supplies of power, natural gas and sewage treatment at reasonable rates.

    90.               The principal manufacturing industries of Oman are fertilizer, petrochemical and aluminium.

    91.               A number of mega industrial projects are at different stages of planning and implementation.  These include petrochemical, aluminium and iron and steel.  Manufacturing grew by 44.6% in 2006 as compared with 22.6% in 2005.  The share of manufacturing in non-oil industrial activities was 73% in 2006 as compared with 68% in 2005.

    (5)               Services – Banking and Financial, Telecom, and Tourism

    92.               Services is an important sector of Oman's economy.  Their share in GDP is 37.7%.  Banking and financial services, telecommunication, business services and tourism related services are the major services of Oman.  Oman encourages the services sector by providing market access and national treatment to foreign services and foreign service suppliers.  Of a total of 17 commercial banks, 10 are branches of foreign banks which operate alongside 7 locally incorporated banks.  Telecom sector has also been opened up to foreign service suppliers.

    93.               Even though Oman's domestic services are not fully developed and competitive, as part of its accession package Oman has made specific commitments on 10 sectors and some 95 sub-sectors of services, which increases investment opportunities.

    (a)        Financial Services Sector – Banking Sector

    94.               Sound macroeconomic policies, prudent and forward looking banking regulations and fine tuned monetary policy measures have supported the stability and resilience of the financial system in the Sultanate of Oman and enabled the development of financial products, services and markets.   

    95.               By and large, the most important class of financial intermediaries in Oman are the commercial banks.  As at the end of 2006, the financial system included 14 commercial banks (of which 5 are locally incorporated and 9 are branches of foreign banks) as well as 3 specialised banks.  Ten commercial banks were engaged in specific investment banking activities, namely, corporate finance, project finance, investment brokerage and investment advisory service, portfolio management, underwriting and investment management while also providing custodian and fiduciary services.  The commercial banks are well capitalized and provisioned, hold high quality assets and generally record strong profits.  The total assets of commercial banks reached RO 10.3 billion at the end of December 2007.  With the high rates of economic growth witnessed in Oman in the past few years, the net profits of commercial banks soared from RO 79.4 million in 2004 to RO 123.2 million in 2005, and further to RO 162.9 million in 2006. 

    96.               The degree of financial deepening in the economy has increased during the past decade, with the application of technology opening up the opportunity to offer a wide range of banking services and changing banking habits progressively replacing the use of currency in favour of non-cash modes of payments in financial settlements.  The use of ATMs, credit cards, debit cards, smart cards, internet banking, phone banking, payment of utilities and other transfers through electronic means, and advanced payment and settlement systems have added depth and sophistication to the financial system.  The behaviour of the ratio of bank deposits to GDP indicates the progress on financial deepening, and this ratio improved from 31.7% in 2005 to 34.2% in 2006.  Similarly, the ratio of bank credit to overall GDP increased to 34.3% in 2006 from 32.9% in 2005.  When seen in relation to non-oil GDP, the ratio is seen to have improved from 62.5% to 64.6%.    

    97.               A number of measures were taken to encourage reforms and progressive liberalization of the financial sector.   These measures include the process of deregulation of interest rates initiated by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) in 1993.  The interest rate ceilings on commercial bank deposits and lending were gradually lifted over time, however, an interest rate ceiling of 9% per annum is currently in effect in the personal loan segment.  Other measures taken to allow greater foreign participation as part of the liberalization process include raising the foreign equity limit to 70% from 49% in a locally incorporated company effective 1 January 2001 as well as allowing commercial presence in the form of wholly foreign-owned subsidiaries and branches of foreign banks and other financial services suppliers starting from 1 January 2003.   

    98.               Financial sector reforms have also been supported by the enactment of the new Banking Law decreed in December 2000 (Sultani Decree 114/2000).  The new Law elaborates banking business to cover new areas and opens up investment banking for commercial banks.

    99.               On the supervisory front, supervisory and regulatory norms have been strengthened and aligned with international best practices.  The regulatory regime in the Sultanate largely complies with international standards, as noted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the context of compliance with the Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision under the Financial Stability Assessment Programme (FSAP).  The current supervisory approach consists of on- and off-site monitoring by the CBO.  The off-site surveillance system has been strengthened with the construction of a set of "Financial Soundness Indicators" to assess the systemic vulnerability of the financial sector, in addition to bank-specific vulnerabilities.  During 2006, the guidelines on International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards (Basel II) were finalized by CBO and, in January 2007, the Standardized Approach for credit and market risks and Basic Indicator Approach for operational risk were adopted.  The CBO is expected to migrate to risk-based supervision by the end of 2008.

    (b)               Tourism

    100.            The overall objective of the National Tourism Development Plan is to assist in the social and economic development of the Sultanate, and the detailed objective for the plan is to establish a comprehensive development vision for the tourism sector including identification of opportunities for future growth, and implementation mechanisms. 

    101.            The Vision statement was "to develop tourism as an important and sustainable socio-economic sector of the Sultanate in a manner that reflects the Sultanate's historic, cultural and environmental heritage and sense of traditional hospitality and values", and the Mission statement was "to help facilitate economic diversification, preservation of cultural integrity and environmental protection of the Sultanate".   

    102.            The figures for hotels in the Sultanate of Oman, in 2007, reached 190 hotels, 9298 rooms and 14,665 beds, with an average growth rate of about 8.6%.  There were roughly 70 travel agents, 32 tour operators, 53 classified restaurants and 169 fast food outlets in the same year operating in the Sultanate.  There were 1.21 million tourist arrivals in 2006, about 592,900 of them were hotel residents, with an average length of stay 2 nights per tourist per trip, and a total expenditure of about RO 160 million. 

    103.            The Markets data analyses indicated that Oman needs to capitalize on the market of GCC tourists as it represents the major tourist market visiting Oman.  GCC tourists represented 50.8% of the total tourists in 2006 (as part of its Vision 2020, the Omani government has the intention to achieve an annual GDP growth of 7.4%).

    104.            The objectives suggested for tourism sector for the period 2006-2010 are as follows:     

    ·                     to increase the level of employment of Omani nationals in the sector from the current 37% to 80% by the year 2010;

    ·                     to achieve an average annual growth rate for the tourist income by about 7%;

    ·                     bring substantial economic benefits to local communities and  residents;

    ·                     conserves and protect the natural environment as well as assuring respect of customs, traditions and cultural heritage;

    ·                     creates community awareness, understanding and support for tourism development;

    ·                     promote close cooperation between the government and the private sector;  and

    ·                     to Increase Oman's Share of visitors from the GCC and increase its recognition as a high quality tourism destination in its own right.

    V.                 FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS

    (1)               Regional Agreements

    (a)                GCC Customs Union

    105.            Oman is one of the six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) customs union.  The other members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  The GCC Member States had established a Free-Trade Area in 1981.  Tariffs and restrictive regulations of commerce on trade between the Member States had been eliminated.

    106.            The GCC Member States upgraded the FTA and established GCC Customs Union from the beginning of 2003.  The Customs Union is fully operational.  It has a common external tariff which meets the requirements of paragraph 8 of Article XXIV of GATT 1994.  The rates of common external tariff are 0% and 5% for more than 85% of tariff lines of Member States.  The agreement envisages that the common external tariff will in due course be applicable to all tariff lines.

    107.            From the beginning of 2008, GCC Common Market has been established.  A common currency will also be adopted, the mechanics and timing of which are under study. 

    108.            GCC Member States have also liberalized services trade within the GCC, in terms of Article V of the GATS.  About 100 sub-sectors of services are liberalized between GCC Member States including banking and other financial services, telecommunication services, professional services, many business services, distribution services, tourism services, education services, health services etc.  More sub-sectors will be liberalized progressively.

    (b)               Pan Arab Free-Trade Area

    109.            Oman is a member of the Pan Arab Free-Trade Area which was established from the beginning of 1998.  It provided for elimination of tariffs and restrictive regulations of commerce between members of the FTA within a period of ten years.  However, the elimination time table was accelerated and tariffs were eliminated on substantially all trade between the members with effect from the beginning of January 2005.  At present Oman is negotiating within PAFTA a regional agreement for trade in services.

    (2)               Bilateral Agreements

    110.            The Sultanate of Oman has also concluded and signed a Free-Trade Agreement with the United States.

    111.            GCC, of which Oman is a member, has concluded an FTA with Singapore, and is in the final stages of negotiations of a Free-Trade Agreement with the European Union.  GCC is also in the process of FTA negotiations with some other countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Turkey, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).

    112.            Oman is also a member of the Indian Ocean Rim arrangement.  However, this arrangement is neither an FTA nor a preferential trade agreement.

    VI.              OMAN, WTO, AND DOHA DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

    (1)               Oman and WTO

    113.            Since joining the WTO on 9 November 2000, Oman has been an active member participating in different WTO bodies and activities to promote and protect its trade interests.  It has collaborated on different issues with different WTO Members, developing and developed.  The closest cooperation has been with GCC Member States.

    114.            Oman has not been a party to any dispute in WTO either as a defendant or as a complainant. 

    (2)               Oman's Participation in DDA

    115.            Oman has been an active participant in Doha round negotiations.  It is active member of RAMs Group.  Oman is also a participant in Fisheries sectoral.  Oman joined some WTO members in a statement to liberalize financial services.  In addition, Oman participated actively in friends of energy group negotiation.  Other than that Oman is also a member of the GCC and the Arab group.  Oman  supports the objectives of the negotiations and desires their early conclusion.  Oman, however, regrets the long delay in the negotiations which is sending wrong signals about the WTO.  All Members should redouble their efforts to achieve a fair, equitable and balanced result in consonance with the promises and commitments in the Doha Ministerial Declaration.

    116.            Oman is in favour of further substantial liberalization of trade in agricultural, non-agricultural products and services.  In this context, Oman had already made a very major and signification contribution in its accession negotiations by making concessions and commitments on goods and services.  Oman has been in the forefront of efforts by recently acceded countries so that they are accorded special treatment in recognition of their substantial commitments in the accession process.  Oman on its part is not satisfied with the proposals made by the chair persons of Agriculture and NAMA on RAMs.  These do not fully take into account the commitments on tariffs and services made by Oman which are far better than those of most WTO Members.

    VII.           FUTURE DIRECTION OF TRADE POLICY

    117.            Oman's future trade policy will continue to be open and liberal based on the principles and rules of the multilateral trading system as enshrined in the WTO.  The multilateral trading system has served the international community very well over the past 60 years and is the best system available; there is no better alternative.  Oman strongly supports the WTO and would work towards strengthening the multilateral trading system.

    118.            Oman is a member of some preferential trading arrangements.  However, it is concerned with the increasing proliferation of preferential trading arrangements which would undermine the multilateral trading system.  There is a disturbing trend where most-favoured nation treatment and non-discrimination, which are the bedrock of the multilateral trading system, are becoming the exception rather than the rule.  Unfortunately, the present developments in the Doha round negotiations on review and improvement of the rules on regional trading arrangements are not encouraging.  What is needed is not only the improvement of notification procedures, but also that of the rules and particularly the approval process.  In Oman's view, only those regional trading arrangements should take effect which are found by the competent WTO body to be fully compatible with the revised rules.  This should also apply to those arrangements which are already in force and under implementation.

    119.            Doha round negotiations would be an excellent opportunity to rectify some of the inequities in WTO disciplines.

    120.            Oman is in favour of preserving and strengthening the multilateral trading system but the rules and procedures should be equitable and the benefits of the system should also flow to and be shared by small developing countries.


    ANNEX:  TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE NEEDS OF OMAN

    1.                   As a developing country, Oman needs technical assistance from the WTO and from other available sources so as to ensure more effective participation in the multilateral trading system.  Oman is grateful to the WTO Secretariat for organizing seminars and workshops in Oman, and in the region, for Omani and GCC officials.  Oman would need the following types of technical assistance in the future:

    ·                     Assistance in meeting numerous notification obligations.

    ·                     Assistance in drafting or revising some WTO-related laws, such as competition legislation.

    ·                     Analysis of the implications for Oman of different specific proposals submitted by Members either in the context of DDA negotiations or the regular work of the WTO.

    ·                     Advisory missions to Oman on specific issues, as requested by Oman from time to time.

    ·                     A periodic, brief summary of developments in different WTO bodies.  For a small developing country like Oman with a small WTO mission, it is neither possible to attend meetings of all WTO bodies nor to wade through the voluminous documentation issued by the WTO.  Thus the need for periodic summaries.

    ·                     Advising Omani officials on how Oman can secure more benefits from its participation in WTO activities.

    ·                     More training facilities for Omani officials in Trade Policy Courses. 

    ·                     Attachment of Omani officials to the WTO Secretariat, each for three months, so as to get a good knowledge of and insight into the meaning and operation of WTO rules and procedures.

    ·                     Settings up a cooperative programme between the WTO and Sultan Qaboos University and other private universities in Oman teaching WTO issues in the Departments of Law, Economics or International Business. 

    ·                     Organizing seminars for Business Community and Academics with targeted messages on the advantages and rights as well as the constraints and obligations emanating from WTO membership. 

    ·                     Organizing national seminars and workshops, either by the WTO Secretariat or in cooperation with other international organizations, on:

    · Customs Valuation and Trade Facilitation and Rules of Origin.

    · SPS and TBT.

    · Trade in Services: classification of some service sectors e.g. energy services and       maritime transport;  evaluation of trade in services.

    · IPR:  familiarization of the Judicial and Customs authorities with the protection of     IPR, legal and institutional impacts of the adherence to new international agreements        on IPR. 

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