Pork Import and Saudi Arabia

Case Number 516

I. Identification


1. The Issue image4.gif (1305 bytes)

    Saudi Arabia is the 19th largest exporter and 20th largest importer in the world , but is still an observer but not a contracting party to the World Trade Organization (W.T.O.). Saudi Arabia is taking many steps to join the World Trade Organization W.T.O., it has completed the phase of providing the necessary information to the W.T.O. and is now in that of bilateral and multi lateral negotiations concerning penetration of markets. This move will open international trade doors wider but at the same time put pressure on the kingdom to liberalize its economy. Saudi Arabia has attended four rounds of multi lateral negotiation and two rounds of bilateral negotiations. The Kingdom, which held its first talks at the W.T.O. headquarters in Geneva in May of 1996, is eager to become a member of the W.T.O. The kingdom demonstrated its desire to join GATT and W.T.O. when it applied in 1993 and is at present in accession negotiations. Experts say it could take longer. W.T.O. members have a series of questions on trade policy and intellectual property rights, and the authorities in Saudi Arabia are trying to put some answers. Saudi Arabia might face the question of whether the kingdom would be allowed to join as a developing country, which would give the kingdom more time to conform to W.T.O. rules on issues of trade, import tariffs, copy rights protection, and other issues. One issue of interest are policies of meat imports, especially pork.

2. Description

    The W.T.O is insisting that membership must be accompanied by an opening up of the Saudi economy to foreign investment and trade. Currently, the most profitable sector of the economy are oil and oil related sectors dominated by state owned companies. The country's trade regime should become more accommodating to non-Saudi business and become more transparent. On the other hand, the Saudiís seek to be a member in the W.T.O and a partner in the formulation of the new world order. On the other hand, it is not acceptable for the Saudiís to be immersed in the melting pot of system that is imposed on them without any regards to the Saudiís culture, religion, reality and interest.

    Saudi Arabia might gain from being a member of the W.T.O. The kingdom could expand its petrochemical industry to some wider international markets. This might help Saudi Arabia to be recognized as a trading country where the government is diversifying its oil dependent economy. W.T.O. membership would give the kingdom a better stage from which to press for more favorable tariffs on its products and eventually the removal of energy taxes which it sees as discriminatory. Joining the W.T.O. could lead to more opportunities for export and accordingly opportunities for new and more investment in export oriented industries. Required tariff reductions by the U.S., Japan, and the European Union on petrochemical products will lead to greater price competitiveness for the kingdom products in those markets. A major issue that is viewed as an obstacle to the joining of Saudi Arabia is the commitment and practical steps on intellectual property rights to end the widespread of piracy.

    The kingdom has started to take some measures to improve its Intellectual Property Rights legislation. Saudi Arabia agreed to adhere to the Universal Copyright Convention U.C.C. which requires that the kingdom apply its domestic copyright laws to foreign works. According to Mr. Dabbagh, Secretary General of the Council of Saudi Arabia Chambers of Commerce and Industry "Saudi Arabia is on the right track concerning its IPR legislation and enforcement. The government is making good efforts to enforce IPR laws, especially in regard to computer programs, music and video tapes, and CDís."World Bank report projected that by the year 2002 the impact of joining the World Trade Organization could add an extra $1-2 billion to the GDP of Saudi Arabia alone.The Kingdom still has a different set of trade barriers, which are mainly regulatory and bureaucratic practices. The level of trade in Saudi Arabia is also restricted due to other key factors such as religion, culture, and health issues.

    The importation of certain articles is either prohibited or requires special approval from the Saudi authorities. The import of agricultural seeds, live animals and fresh frozen meat they all require special approval from the Saudi authorities. When it comes to importing meat, only chicken, beef or sheep meat fresh or frozen can be imported in the kingdom. In addition,the exporter must obtain a certificate of Islamic (Halal) Slaughter from a member of an Islamic center or Islamic organization. The certificate should state that the animals were slaughtered according to the Islamic religion requirements.

    In Islam eating pork is said to contribute to lack of morality and shame, plus greed for wealth, dirtiness and gluttony. Muslims are forbidden by God to eat pork. This is detailed in some of the verses in the Quraan. An exemplary verse "He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and any food over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked." According to Islam, pig's bodies contain many toxins, worms, latent diseases, and it contains excessive quantities of histamine and imidazole.

    There are certain documents that are required when exporting goods into Saudi Arabia, an import license, description of the good, documents indicating compliance with Saudi health regulations, a notarized certificate of origin and bilingual labels. Arabic must be one of the languages used for declaration. A statement that Halal product has been slaughtered according to Islamic principles.

    The Saudi law prohibits outdated goods from entering the Kingdom as an aim from the Saudi ministry of Commerce to prevent outdated goods from entering the Kingdom and it requires Arabic and point of origin labeling. The import of certain products is prohibited by the Saudi law, pork, alcohol, weapons, and pornographic materials. Other than those products, there are no special import provisions. Unusual cases should be worked out on a case by case basis with the Saudi authorities.

    Saudi Arabia prohibits the import, use, or possession of any item that is held to be contrary to the tenets of the Islamic Faith. This includes non Islamic religious materials, pork, alcohol products and illicit drugs. The Saudi customs and postal officials widely define what is contrary to Islam and therefore prohibit it. Conviction for breaking alcohol, pork, and other prohibited articles to the Kingdom and preaching religions other than Islam may result in imprisonment. Any product that is related to pork even if it's not used as food like pig skin is still prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

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Amway in China

Pisco Liquer Dispute Between Chile and Peru

Cassis Spirit trading

French Film Quotas and Cultural Protectionism

Keyword Clusters

1) Trade Product = Food

2) Trade Measure = Import ban

3) Region = Middle East

4. Draft Author:

Shehab Al-Fakhri (05-06-1999)

II. Legal Clusters

5. Discourse and Status:

Disagreement and In Progress

    Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that has the Quran as its Constitution. Pork is prohibited in the Quran and the Islamic laws. Therefore, itís prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

6. Forum and Scope:

Saudi Arabia and Unilateral

7. Decision Breadth: 1

8. Legal Standing:


    Pork Import to Saudi Arabia is contradicting to the Saudi religion, laws and culture. Non-Muslimis are not allowed to eat pork in Saudi Arabia.

III. Geographic Clusters

9. Geographic Locations

A. Geographic Domain: Mideast

B. Geographic Site: MIDEAST

C. Geographic Impact: Saudi Arabia

10. Sub-State:


11. Type of Habitat:


Weather conditions vary dramatically from one region of Saudi Arabia to the next. Very hot and dry conditions characterize the Kingdom, yet the verdant Asir highlands in the south nearby are relatively cold and moist. The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures can exceed 60 degrees (F) during the summer in many regions of the Kingdom. During the winter months, overnight low temperatures approach the freezing mark at higher elevations.

IV. Trade Clusters

12. Type of Measure:

Import ban [IMBAN]

13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts:


    Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic laws, which in turn had trade impacts.

14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact

A. Directly Related to Product: Yes (Pork)

B. Indirectly Related to Product: No

C. Not Related to Product: No

D. Related to Process: Yes (Saudi Law and Culture)

15. Trade Product Identification:

Product Type: Pork

16. Economic Data

    There has been an increase in projects involving the raising and fattening of sheep and cattle. This had a very important role in terms of the need for the cultivation of fodder, subsidized by the Saudi Government. Such development has resulted to the fulfilment of Saudi Arabiaís for meat needs. Food accounts for 7% of the GDP of Saudi Arabia.

    In 1975, the poultry industry in the Kingdom did not cover 10% of local demand; by 1985 the Kingdom had achieved self-sufficiency in egg production and surpassed it, exporting to its neighboring states. As the production of slaughter chickens, it now covers 65% of local demand. This has been done through subsidy.

17. Degree of Competitive Impact:


18. Industry Sector:


19. Exporters and Importers:

Many and Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Arabia prohibits the import, use, or possession of pork. Pork is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that considers the Quran as its Constitution. The Quran prohibits pork, therefore, itís prohibited in the Kingdom. Pork is also prohibited in Saudi Arabia because itís believed that it has some bad effects on health.

V. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type:


21. Species


22. Impact and Effect:

Low And Product

23. Urgency and Lifetime:

Low And (2-3 Years)

24. Substitutes:

Like Products

    Saudi Arabia prohibits pork in its land. Other types of meat are allowed in Saudi Arabia and in Islam such as beef, sheep meat frozen or fresh, chicken, and Camels.

VI. Other Factors

25. Culture:


    Saudi Arabia has a set of strict Islamic codes of products and behaviors. Saudi Arabiaís culture is very dependent on the teachings of Islamic law. There needs to be a level of understanding of the religious and cultural barriers that exist with trade in Saudi Arabia. There are certain products that are prohibited in Islamic law and therefore, prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Articles such as pork, alcohol, religious books and materials, pornographic materials, and certain sculptures are all forbidden in the Kingdom.   Saudi Arabia seeks to be a member in the World Trade Organization (W.T.O.). and a partner in formulating a new world order. Itís not acceptable for the Saudiís to be immersed in the melting pot of a system that is imposed on them, since there is disregard for the Saudi culture and religion. This will inevitably create tensions between Saudi Arabia and Non-Muslim countries.

26. Human Rights



27. Trans-boundary Issue:



28. Relevant Literature:


Dianah Abdullah. Washington Times, Reuters News, 1996.

John Zarocostas. WTO question Saudi Stance on Israel Trade. June1998

Country Report. The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2nd Quarter 1997

The Monthly Newsletter of Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Washington, D.C.

Commercial Mission. The royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, D.C.

US Department of state, Economic Policy and Trade Practices: Saudi Arabia, July 1997, Washington, D.C.

Internet (The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, D.C.)

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