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A free Arab trade agreement signed by 17 Arab countries has become effective. Customs duties imposed on Arab-origin products have been cancelled.

Arab League Chief Amr Moussa says the agreement targets setting up an economic bloc to raise the standard of living. In a related development, 17 Arab customs authorities have begun enforcement of the agreement’s provisions. A circular released by the Arab League Economic Unity Council has been sent to the customs authorities in this regard.

Political rifts along with customs barriers and other factors kept trade among Arab states below 9% of their overall trade. This is projected to climb by more than 60% in less than three years if things run as smoothly as drawn up by nations’ leaders and economists.

The decision to found the Greater Arab zone for free exchange was issued in an Arab summit held in Jordan in 2001.

Algeria has provided all necessary documents and is in the process of joining the zone. In addition to Algeria Mauritania, Somalia, Djibouti and the Comoros Federation  are the only countries out of the zone.