Libyan Free Trade Zones
After a long period of internal development Libya is now fully opening its gates to the world. Foreign investment and tourism infrastructure development are being given national priority by the Libyan government. Archaeological treasures, the Sahara desert, the oases, and the largest collection of prehistoric rock art galleries make Libya the ideal sun, sea and sand destination of the future. Libya sought US and international partners to assist in developing tourism infrastructure to sustain an estimated 1,000,000 visitors a year by 2015, compared to the current 130,000. According to Libyan officials at the Tourism Development Authority (TDA), which serves as a one-stop shop for investors in the sector, the plan is to create complete tourist cities and free trade zones, and that Libya is looking for" high-income investors and tourists" with the aim to develop high-end tourism, as opposed to mass tourism!
Libya has recently experienced rapid expansion in the construction, oil & gas, telecommunications, health and agribusiness sectors, and leading Libyan analysts project sustained growth well into the future. To bring the country out of its economic isolation and further bolster the Libyan economy, a number of laws have been issued regarding the creation of free trade zones (FTZ). The Free Trade Act of 1999 created a legal framework for establishing offshore free trade zones in Libya. The Libyan General People's Committee's Law (168) of year 2006 establishes the Libyan Free Zones Board, which will supervise and run all the intended Libyan free trade zones. Law (215) of 2006, declares the foundation of Zwara-Abu-Kemmash Free Trade Zone; and Law (32) of year 2006 declares the foundation of Mesratha Free Trade Zone.
Local Opposition To The Free Zone:
To kick start the project the first thing the head of the project, Saadi Gaddafi, did was to confiscate around 45000 hectares of Berber land. Berberists from Zuwarah protested against the true objective of the project which they said was designed to Arabise Zuwarah and integrate it into a larger community in which the Berbers will become a tiny minority and eventually disappear when the zone becomes a semi-independent zone, and called for the resignation of Saadi and the appointment of competent experts who would take into consideration the local Berber population into the workings of the zone and encourage local jobs and investment. However, the NTC had declared during the Liberation Day (23 October 2011) that all confiscated land should be returned to its rightful owners; and that it will honour all the International agreements singed during Gaddafi's regime, and so it follows that the project should continue.
Libya's Membership in Other Free Trade Zones
The African Free Trade Zone
At a recent 12-day meeting in Nairobi, heads of 19 states of member countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) agreed to join forces and become a full-fledged custom union by December 2008. These states are: Burundi, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The delegates lamented the ongoing humanitarian crises in Sudan's Darfur, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. But despite controversy and gross negligence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was voted as deputy chairman during the summit. So if African corruption is to blame for the current state of Africa, as we have been told, the future of a successful union at this level remains to be seen. However, the delegates have also discussed efforts to set up a peace conference for war-torn Somalia, but regardless of whether this is enough to eliminate the major obstacles for an economic expansion or not, what happens after the discussion and after the conference remains to be conferred!
The Arab Free Trade Zone
Libya is part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), also known as PAFTA (Pan Arab Free Trade Agreement). The Arab Free Trade Zone, which came into effect on January 1, 2005, currently comprises 17 member states: Libya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Syria. The discussion to form an Arab free trade zone began in 2001, in Morocco. The Agadir declaration on the setting up of the zone was signed in Agadir, under the chairmanship of King Mohammed VI, by the foreign ministers of Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt, in the presence of the foreign ministers of Algeria, Libya and Mauritania and representatives of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. The official spokesman for the royal palace, Hassan Aourid, said that the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), which comprises Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have started dialogue with the European Union and stressed the need to face up the challenges and requirements of globalisation.
The Mediterranean Free Trade Zone
The European Union Trade Commissioner, Mr. Peter Mandelson, and trade ministers from Southern Mediterranean countries have agreed to develop a working party, with the aim of creating a free trade zone which will be in operation by 2010. The agreement was forged at the 6th Euro-Med Trade Ministerial Conference, held in Lisbon. The Euro-Med Partnership (EMP), also known as the Barcelona Process, is a joint venture between the EU and 12 Mediterranean states. The Barcelona Declaration (of November 27, 1995) set goals reducing political instability and increasing commercial integration. In 1999, 27 European partners agreed to conditionally admit Libya. The new free trade zone will be established by two negotiation procedures: a “bilateral” agreement between EU members and every country in the Mediterranean area, and a “multilateral” agreement. The countries that have signed the agreement are: Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Israel, the Palestinian National Authority, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Libya (which will participate in the agreement as an observer).