There can be no meaningful economic integration of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, without the free flow of goods and services between member states.
But for the past six weeks, transport trucks have needed to wait as long as six days, in queues that stretch as far as 30 kilometres, to cross the border between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. According to some truck drivers, the delays are caused by the slow processing of customs procedures by the Saudi authorities at the border post.
The hold-up does not only affect trade between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but is disrupting the movement of goods vital for the activities of companies as far away as Qatar. The valuable cargo in the queue, that stretched up to 4,000 trucks at times, include cement, aluminum and machine parts.
Legitimate national crime and security concerns must be tackled to ensure the safety of residents of the GCC. However, this can — and must — be managed in a way that takes into consideration the needs of the regional economy. This can be done by working together to strengthen controls on borders with non-member states, while easing movement within the GCC, like the European Union is doing.
The GCC has long been working towards a political and economic union that would further strengthen its standing in the international community. But it is hard to see how it can expect to manage something as complicated as a monetary union effectively, when it cannot even keep trade within the bloc running smoothly.
Until such time as there is the will and ability to make the GCC an economic bloc that is an efficient and cheap place to do business for domestic companies and international investors, it will remain nothing but a much-talked about vision.