* Customs union has faced delays in six-nation area
* Kuwait cites progress on plan ministerial meeting
* GCC wants full customs union ready by early 2015
(Adds more quotes, details, background)
By Sylvia Westall and Martin Dokoupil
KUWAIT, May 7 Gulf Arab oil exporters have to
make concessions if they want their customs union to be fully
operational by the beginning of 2015 as planned, Kuwaiti Finance
Minister Anas al-Saleh told his counterparts at finance
ministers' meeting on Wednesday.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council states, which also include
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain,
first launched a partial customs union - a free trade area with
a common external tariff - in 2003.
But the full functioning of the project has been delayed
largely by disagreements over how to divide customs revenues
between the bloc's members which together form a $1.6 trillion
The GCC countries "should unite their views and give
concessions to eliminate things which hinder Gulf economic
work," Saleh told a meeting of the GCC finance ministers in
He said that the goal was still to have the full customs
union by the beginning of 2015.
"So this is the time to give concessions from members states
of the GCC, to reach a compromise deal and to guarantee rights
of member countries," he said, without giving details.
Saleh told reporters after the meeting that the ministers
had come to an agreement on revenue distribution for the union.
Options for a distribution formula previously mentioned by
GCC officials have included dividing revenue from customs
according to the level of imports, population or the share of
gross domestic product of individual countries.
Other problems hampering a full customs union have included
the sometimes slow and inefficient customs clearance process at
In 2012, customs caused a queue of thousands of trucks to
build up in the desert heat at a border crossing between the UAE
and Saudi Arabia. It took several weeks to reduce the logjam.
ECONOMIC INTEGRATION SLOW
The GCC states have made several plans for closer economic
integration but process has been difficult and slow.
Other integration projects, such as a monetary union or the
introduction of a value added tax faced years of delays as
smaller countries fear that Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab
economy, would be too dominant.
In March the GCC suffered one of its worst rifts in its
history when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their
ambassadors from Qatar, accusing Doha of not abiding by a deal
to not interfere in each others' internal affairs.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Editing by Raissa