Business & Economy
Written By: Faisal Darem
Article Date: Jul 21, 2007 - 7:04:49 AM
Can low quality Yemeni products really compete with higher quality foreign products?
Yemen is expected to fulfill the requirements of joining the World Trade Organization by the end of 2008, said Dr. Yahya al-Mutawakil, Minister of Industry and Trade. "The WTO membership is not the main goal by itself, but rather a means to merge with the international commercial system which necessitates adopting related regulations," he said. Yemen’s government says that it has already achieved many of the requirements of joining the WTO, in compliance with the rules set by the main members of the WTO, which include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, said Hamoud al-Njar, the head office of communication and coordination with WTO.
"Yemen is considered to be one of the world’s least developed countries, and in need of special conditions for joining the WTO," al-Njar,said. "So, Yemen needs a transition period of five years to accommodate its legislation with the legislative treaties of the WTO." One of the main requirements is that Yemen rehabilitate its Ministry of Trade and Industry. Thus far, the ministry has finished the initial study for rehabilitation, which will be completed by the Ministry of Service Civil and Insurance in the next few months, Dr. Yahya al-Mutawakil, Minister of Industry and Trade, said during a recent workshop organized to revise consumer law.
The workshop was held by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in their offices last week. It was called “Enriching Consumer Law.” In the past, there were two ministries, the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Industry. Sometimes they worked together, and sometimes they worked independently, which created many problems. Now, these ministries are merged into the Ministry of Trade and Industry. But they were merged without a vision or integrated study, al-Mutawakil said.
The rehabilitation of the ministry is intended to organize its functions, develop its responsibilities, and to help it play a bigger role in the leadership of industrial and commercial activities. The rehabilitation should also help it to contribute to the development of the national economy in general, al-Mutawakil said. “The new function of the ministry is to enhance its role as supervision for investment and industrial and commercial growth,” al-Mutawakil said. “The ministry will serve as an organizer of industrial and commercial activities, and an observer on market performance and production and quality of the goods, due to protecting competition and preventing monopoly.”
The study by the Ministry of Civil Service recommended various ways to rehabilitate the Ministry of Trade and Industry according to the free market system. The ministry also wrote working papers and studies that were presented at a workshop organized by the ministry, in coordination with the concerned bodies, al-Mutawakil said. Al-Mutawakil said that this symposium was organized to improve and develop consumer law, according to consumer interests and national interests. A few months ago, the Ministry of Trade and Industry withdrew its draft consumer law from Parliament in order to develop it in conformity with free market economic policies.
The ministry would also create a law to regulate prices. This symposium is a good opportunity for the myriad authorities involved to meet and exchange views, and to share responsibilities on consumer protection, he said. The government last month withdrew its consumer protection draft law, removing it from consideration by the Parliament. The government made this decision in order to revise the laws in order to accommodate the latest economic, commercial, and legislative developments.
There are some deficiencies in the draft law for consumer protection. These include problems with the compensation given to consumers if they buy faulty products. The consumer law is the first priority of the ministry, because it is important for the health and economy of Yemen, as well as a requirement for Yemen’s participation in the global economy and the WTO. "There is no doubt that an approved consumer law needs to create appropriate legislation to take care of the interest of the consumer, as well as protecting the national economy,” said al-Mutawakil. “Consumer law will create a good relationship between the producer and importer on one hand, and the consumer on the other hand."
Discussion of the draft law to protect consumers by many concerned authorities will enrich the law and enhance its role to make it more effective, said Eng. Abdul Salam al-Gamish, the Chairman of the Yemeni Association for Consumer Protection. At the symposium, a number of working papers were presented, the first one by the Secretary-General of the Yemeni Society for Consumer Protection, Yassin al-Tamimi, and Mohamed Almokteri, a lawyer, who presented the draft law. They discussed in the paper the importance of consumer rights and the efforts the association made to prepare the first draft of the law, which has benefited from the comparative legislation in the area of consumer protection in a number of other countries.
They also discussed the selection of appropriate conditions for the Yemeni consumer. They reviewed the objectives of the law, and its advantages in terms of Yemen’s economic interests. Dr. Mohamed al-Sharfi, a member of Parliament, offered a working paper on how to protect the consumer in international courts. He focused on the importance of issuing a law to protect the consumer's right with the help of several authorities, not just one.
“Today is the time of globalization that is based on the amendment of laws, and no one is able to resist it,” said Hamoud al-Bokhiti, General Director of the Center for Consumer Studies and Research. "The government should save the life of its people. The government pulled this law from consideration because it ignores many important points which we are here to complete them." Consumer issues must be brought to the urgent courts, not to ordinary courts, to prevent violators selling their expired foodstuffs, said al-Bokhiti.
Also, the law must include the consumer’s rights to compensation if the foods they buy are made from expired foodstuff. The government should learn from the experience of countries that have the same law, according to the global, social, and economic rights, said al-Bokhiti. “I think that good consumer law means protecting both the rights of the consumer and the producer at the same time.”
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