« More Insights


Brexit talks head for October showdown

It’s all set up for a last-gasp dash for a deal in October. Either that, or no deal at all.

The seventh formal round of post-Brexit future relationship talks between the U.K. and the EU wrapped up Friday (August 21) with the familiar stalemate and mutual blame. So familiar in fact, it was almost a greatest hits album, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier dusting off his favorite line about the ticking clock, and even covering the Theresa May classic: “Brexit means Brexit.”

The British side agrees that “Brexit means Brexit” — and therefore they are deeply frustrated at Barnier’s attempt (as they see it) to bind the U.K. to much the same set of rules as EU members in terms of its ability to subsidize industry and control British fishing waters.

David Frost, the U.K.’s chief negotiator, said Brussels’ position was now that talks could not substantively progress in any area until the U.K. backs down and accepts “continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy.” Downing Street — determined in particular to have leeway on state subsidies to assist the coronavirus recovery — insist they will do no such thing. So talks are frozen. The EU’s stance, Frost said “makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress.”

Barnier, spelling out the EU’s position from the press podium at European Commission HQ, called a level-playing field on state aid and subsidies “a non-negotiable precondition to grant access to our market of 450 million citizens, given the U.K.’s geographic proximity and intensity of our economic exchanges.” He declared himself “disappointed and concerned and surprised” by the state of play.

“I see that time is passing by, and that we are starting to take the risk of not being able to ratify the treaty by the end of the year,” he said.

Both sides are now eyeing October’s European Council meeting as a de facto deadline, to allow time to pin the deal down before the transition period ends at 11 p.m. U.K. time on December 31 — the moment Brexit rule changes will actually start to be felt by the businesses and citizens of the U.K. and the EU.


US wins end of EU lobster tariffs in mini trade deal

The European Union has agreed to eliminate tariffs on US lobster, a key priority of President Donald Trump.

In exchange, the US will halve import taxes on some $160m (£122m) worth of European goods, including cigarette lighters and certain crystal glassware.

The agreement is the first tariff reduction the two economic heavyweights have agreed in more than two decades.

Mr. Trump had threatened higher tariffs on European cars if the EU did not end the lobster duties.

In June, he ordered aid for US lobstermen, whose exports have suffered in part due to deteriorating trade relations.

China slapped tariffs on the crustacean as part of the US-China trade dispute, while in the EU market, the industry has lost ground to competitors from Canada, after the country signed a 2017 free trade agreement eliminating Europe’s 8% lobster tariffs.

The new US agreement, which would drop the lobster tariffs for five years, still needs approval from EU governments and the European Parliament.



Middle East

UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment explores increasing volume of livestock imports

Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, on August 20 toured Al Dhara border crossing in Ras Al Khaimah to review the efficiency and capacity of veterinary labs in the emirate.

In a bid to reinforce the UAE’s position as a livestock re-export hub for the wider region, the tour explored the prospects for increasing the volume of inbound livestock consignments and the number of imported livestock markets the country.

The Minister was accompanied by Sultan Alwan, Acting Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MoCCAE, and Dr. Ibrahim Al Jamali, Director for the Northern Region at MoCCAE.

Dr. Al Nuaimi discussed with federal and local officials at the crossing the ability to accommodate a higher volume of inbound consignments, as well as to enhance the flexibility and speed of the animal testing and release services.

He said, “Through turning the UAE into the most popular regional centre for the import and re-export of goats, cattle, and camels, the Ministry aims to ensure food security in the country in line with highest international standards, as well as to improve the UAE’s competitiveness and the economic revenue from livestock imports.” He noted that assessing the capacity of the UAE’s ports to accommodate an increase in the volume of inbound shipments and ascertain the readiness of its labs to expedite processes is the priority at this time.


Duqm Port in Oman sees positive uptake of land in industrial, logistics zones

Growing numbers of local and international companies are setting up operations in specially created zones earmarked for industrial and logistics activities within the concession area of Port of Duqm on Oman’s Al Wusta coast.

According to a top official of the maritime gateway, which anchors the sprawling Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Duqm, investments have picked up pace in the 1,000-hectare Logistics Zone as well as the 3,000-hectare Industrial Zone that form part of the port’s sizable concession.

Reggy Vermeulen, CEO, said the investment inflows into the two zones, as well the start-up of activities within these lands, were largely in trend with the pace of implementation of mega ventures under way in the adjoining SEZ.

In an interview to Duqm Economist, the quarterly newsletter focusing on Duqm SEZ, Vermulen noted that as many as 24 companies have so far leased land within the Logistics Zone administered by the port.  The list includes prominent players such as Tristar, Rezayat, Al Madina Logistics, Mammout and Duqm Ahlia, all of which currently operate from a 65-hectare site fully leased by the port for logistics activities.

In the Industrial Zone – an area earmarked for all kinds of heavy-to-light industrial investments – a total of 16 companies have set up operations so far.  They include investments in concrete batching plants, steel fabrication yards and other facilities designed to provide support services to contractors and project developers behind a number of large-scale infrastructure, industrial and petrochemical ventures underway in the SEZ.

Underpinning the appeal of the Logistics and Industrial zones is their proximity to Duqm Port’s 2.2 kilometre-long commercial berth, which is currently being readied for multipurpose cargo handling, said the CEO.

[Oman Daily Observer]