GCC, EU to sign FTA deal soon


“The FTA with the EU will be signed in October or November this year,” said Al-Bazie, who is GCC’s coordinator for the agreement. He said the next round of negotiations in Brussels would be crucial to the conclusion of this vital accord.


The GCC — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates — has been holding FTA talks for the last 18 years. It has already fulfilled 95 percent of the conditions for the prestigious agreement.


The last joint meeting of GCC and EU foreign and finance ministers was successful in settling most outstanding issues. GCC central bank governors are scheduled to meet with their EU counterparts next month to discuss monetary policies.


Economic observers have insisted that GCC countries must intensify coordination to finalize the agreement as quickly as possible.


GCC foreign ministers are expected to discuss the FTA issue during their meeting in Jeddah on Saturday.


GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah said the Jeddah meeting would discuss matters related to a GCC common market in preparation to announce its formation at the next GCC summit. “It will also review the progress of negotiations with economic groups,” he added.


The GCC-EU free trade agreement is expected to boost GCC exports to Europe and bring more foreign direct investment to the member countries that seek funds to carry out vital projects in energy, petrochemical, telecom, power generation, railway and desalination sectors. It will also improve economic welfare in the GCC member states.


GCC countries import EU goods worth 47.4 billion euros, thus being Europe’s fifth largest market in the world. GCC imports include cars, planes, machinery, and building materials. GCC exports crude oil, petrochemicals and aluminum products worth 35.2 billion euros to Europe. It holds 14th place among foreign exporters to EU countries.


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