Muscat: Non-tariff barriers hinder the free movement of goods, services, capital and people and are impacting the ability of Omani companies to trade internationally. In a response to the situation, Ithraa, Oman’s inward investment and export promotion agency, has teamed up with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the UN-WTO’s International Trade Centre (ITC) to carry out a study on non-tariff barriers (NTBs) facing Oman’s exporting community.
NTBs result from a wide range of situations, such as lack of implementation and inconsistent enforcement of rules and unclear definitions. They can also include challenging technical rules, fees and inspection charges, health and safety regulations, labelling schemes and environmental standards.
A fractured banking sector can also make it difficult for exporters to open accounts in foreign countries.
For Omani businesses, NTBs make supply chains more expensive and mean that the benefits of economies of scale cannot be fully attained owing to residual divergences. Indeed, Omani SMEs wishing to expand internationally can be particularly hard hit by NTBs. Consumers are affected by NTBs too, as they can face a reduced choice of products and services, higher costs and inferior quality.
Nasima al Balushi, Ithraa’s Director-General of Export Development & Investment Promotion, said: “A recent and important trend in global trade has been the proliferation of regional trade agreements and the Middle East is no exception. Regional integration efforts the world over have all sought to liberalise trade between countries so as to increase bilateral trade flows, diversify exports by overcoming the limits of small markets and deepen specialisation through achieving economies of scale. Harnessing regional integration more effectively, would help all countries lower their cost base thereby enhancing global competitiveness. It’s a win-win situation.”
Ithraa’s Director-General said: “If Oman’s ambitious economy is to continue to grow then we need to step up the momentum on removing NTBs. We hope the study we’re launching today with ITC and MoCI will go a long way in helping remove bureaucratic obstacles to international trade. Our goal is to ease the of exporting non-oil goods and boost the number of Omani exporters, particularly SMEs.”