Choose your language

Towards higher competitiveness in the Middle East
Middle East | Muscat

Towards higher competitiveness in the Middle East

11 Dec 2018

Roundtable session wrap-up

Part of the “Governing Road Transport” hub at the World Congress, this roundtable examined how to improve cooperation and connectivity in the Middle East. 

Infrastructure development and new intermodal connections are reshaping traditional trade corridors and the way transport operators work across the world. In this context, Asia plays a pivotal role by forming strategic partnerships with emerging economies. These dynamics have a strong impact on transport and logistics activities in the Middle East. However, non-tariff barriers and low regional connectivity are still impeding the full potential of trade in the region. What role should the Middle East play in this future landscape?

How are trends in logistics driving changes in trade corridors?

What will be the role of intermodal connections? How can transport operators improve regional connectivity and intra-regional trade?

Panellists included journalist, Dareen Abughaida, Abdulrahman bin Salim Al Hatmi from ASYAD, Nadia Abdul Aziz from Oman’s National Association of Freight and Logistics, Dr. Yarob Badr from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, William Joseph Barenberg Jr from OCTAL, Faisal Saad Albedah from Saudi Arabia Customs, and Habib Turki from Webb Fontaine. 

The session began with a live polling of audience members for their opinion on whether people are satisfied with the level of regional cooperation. More than 80% of the audience responded that cooperation in the region was outstanding.

Towards higher competitiveness in the Middle East - IRU World Congress roundtable panel

Moderator Dareen Abughaida asked panel participants for their thoughts on regional cooperation and the poll results. Mr Al Hatmi was surprised by the poll results and provided an opposing view. He said that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) area was not sufficiently competitive. To overcome this challenge, he recounted the response given to him by a CEO from a major global company about working in Oman. The CEO said he would only come to Oman if there was integration of customs systems in the region and with major trading partners as well as minimal controls between countries. 

Yarob Badr explained that the region had been better integrated some years ago, but that conflict upended this integration and brought widespread instability. He strongly advocated for the creation of “corridors of vital connectivity” throughout the region to counteract the effects of conflict. 

William Barenburg explained his company’s reason for working in Oman was because of the efficiency of the port and free zone. He said that for inter-regional trade to grow, the most important element is predictability. Predictability allows you to plan, enforce laws and develop local skills. He did stress though that the GCC needs to focus on what can be done in the region that has global value.

The GCC market alone is not enough to attract investors. 

Habib Turki agreed with Barenburg that predictability was essential. He added that transparency is also crucial to promoting regional cooperation. He emphasised that it is not only about integration between governments, but also internally within governments between agencies. 

The panel concluded with another poll among audience members asking them about the biggest threat to business in the GCC. Some 48% of the audience responded that the biggest threat is geopolitical uncertainty.