US trade with GCC countries jump 8.7pc to $ 53.8b in ’06


Similarly, 96 per cent of US imports from Kuwait were petroleum and petroleum products. Large US imports of petroleum and petroleum products from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait resulted in trade deficits for the US of $ 22.4 billion and $ 2 billion, respectively.

US trade deficit with Oman and Bahrain stood at barely $ 100 million each. US trade with the GCC countries jumped by 8.7 per cent in the first 11 months of 2006 to $ 53.8 billion from the same period in 2005, while trade with UAE was valued at $ 12.2 billion or 21 per cent of the total.

US trade with the other GCC member countries was valued at $ 9.7 billion as trade with Kuwait reached $ 5.5 billion, Oman, $ 1.7 billion and Bahrain, $ 1.0 billion.

On the other hand, imports of the same products from the UAE constituted only 16 per cent of US imports from the Emirate. Imports of nonferrous metals and garments contributed 19 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively. UAE was the largest export market of the US in the GCC, absorbing nearly half (49.1 per cent) of US exports to the region.

Major exports to the UAE were machineries ($ 203 million) and transport equipment ($ 548 million) consisting predominantly of aircraft and associated equipment and parts.

The same product groups dominated US exports to Saudi Arabia, valued at $ 251 million (machineries) and $ 180 million (transport equipment). The latter, however, consisted primarily of motor cars. These products also dominated US exports to other GCC countries, although at much lower scale.

Meanwhile, according to a recent report by the Kuwait-based Global Investment House (Global), Saudi Arabian imports are expected to record more than a 15 per cent growth in the next few years owing to the strong growth experienced in the economy and any adverse movement in the US dollar can have a direct impact on the inflation.

The report further said that despite a fast increase in the money supply and liquidity over the last few years, the Saudi economy has not experienced any major inflationary effects. It explained that as the Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar, the movement in inflation is influenced by the market movement of the dollar.

As a result of movement towards monetary union, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has maintained the Saudi riyal peg to the dollar ($ 1= SR3.75). The monetary union agreement covers common standards for economic and fiscal performance in the GCC, including a maximum level of the budget deficit, public debt, current account deficit, interest rates, and inflation.

Following the rise in US interest rates, SAMA too raised interest rates in the country. However, the central bank has significant foreign exchange reserves that it can use to maintain the parity in the foreign exchange markets.

SAMA raised interest rate on riyal by a quarter per cent to 3.50 per cent from 3.25 per cent on deposits and on loans to 4.0 per cent from 3.75 per cent. This decision preceded a decision by the US Federal Reserve Bank to raise the interest rate on the dollar by a quarter of a per cent. This maintained the Saudi Repo difference of half a per centage point above the dollar interest rate.

Moreover, the differential in the interest rates at the end of 2005 was about 0.502 per cent in favour of the Saudi riyal for 3-month deposits reporting an increase from the differential of 0.044 per cent reported at end of the previous year. The report said that the interest rates are expected to increase further in the medium-term. However, SAMA will continue to adjust its discounting rates with the Fed rates.

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