The European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council signed an Economic Cooperation Agreement in 1988 which laid the framework for the elaboration of a bilateral free trade agreement between the two regional blocs. Formal negotiations began in 1990 and are still not concluded.

While the EU has powerful economic interests in liberalising investment rules in the Gulf States, so that EU corporations may participate directly in the region’s oil, banking, telecoms, port services and other industries, political issues have been publically blamed for blocking agreement. These include demands from the EU with regards to fulfilling standards of democracy and human rights, as well as clauses on cooperation against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Human rights groups, such as the International Federation for Human Rights, have urged the EU to insist on respect for freedom of press, women’s rights and labour rights of migrant workers in the Gulf countries in return for any trade concessions granted through the FTA.

At the end of 2008, the GCC formally announced it was suspending the trade talks due to the EU’s insistence on political demands.

last update: May 2012


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  • 12-Apr-2009 Easy Bourse GCC mulls reopening free trade talks aith EU
    The Gulf Cooperation Council chief and Saudi and Omani ministers on Sunday discussed how to revive talks on a free trade accord with the European Union that broke down in December
  • 29-Jan-2009 Gulof News EU responds to demands with more demands
    The demands which stood as obstacles to signing an EU-GCC FTA are non-commercial demands, although GCC countries made a great leap in updating and modernising economic and commercial laws in the past years, thinking this would meet EU requirements in this respect.
  • 6-Jan-2009 Emirates Business 24/7 Massive GCC trade imbalance at heart of failed FTA with EU
    Gulf oil producers have accused their main economic partner the European Union (EU) of lacking interest in signing the long-sought free trade deal as it shifts interest to partners in East Europe.
  • 29-Dec-2008 Gulf News Row stalled Gulf-EU talks
    A disagreement over human rights and democracy was behind the suspension earlier this month of trade talks between the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union, an Omani official said yesterday.
  • 24-Dec-2008 Le CCG suspend ses négociations avec l’UE sur un accord de libre-échange
    Le Conseil de coopération du Golfe (CCG) a suspendu ses longues négociations avec l’Union européenne (UE) sur un accord de libre-échange, a affirmé mardi le secrétaire général du CCG Abderrahmane Al-Attiyah.
  • 24-Dec-2008 Khaleej Times GCC suspends FTA talks with EU
    The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Tuesday said it had suspended talks with the European Union for a free trade agreement (FTA). The decision to halt more than two decades of hard negotiations between the two regional economic blocs to sign the world’s first region-to-region free trade agreement came a week ahead of a crucial summit by GCC leaders in Muscat.
  • 16-Dec-2008 AFP Qatar warns Gulf may suspend talks on EU trade pact
    Qatar warned on Monday that the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council would suspend talks on a free trade deal with the European Union if an impasse in the 20-year-old negotiations continues.
  • 25-Nov-2008 Business 24/7 GCC and Europe FTA in few weeks
    The Free Trade Agreement between European Union and GCC states will be signed within few weeks, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, has said.
  • 13-Nov-2008 Bahrain calls for stepping up free trade deal talks
    Bahrain yesterday called for GCC-EU member states to fast-track the Free Trade Agreement. "Such a deal would send GCC-EU economic co-operation to new heights," Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Dr Essam Fakhro yesterday said.
  • 30-Oct-2008 Eurochambres EU-GCC business statement on EU-GCC free trade negotiations
    Joint statement from business representatives of both the EU and the GCC, dated 29 October 2008
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