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
photo: European External Action Service - EEAS/CC BY-NC 2.0
“The GCC EU FTA has been stalled for almost 30 years – a situation that does not reflect the strategic relationship between the GCC and the EU," said GCC secretary-general.
The European Union’s Trade Commissioner called for the resumption of the stalled EU-GCC Free Trade Agreement negotiations.
EU commissioner Phil Hogan met UAE ministers to discuss the reopening free trade negotiations with the Gulf states.
Private sector leader Qatar Chamber is hoping that talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council would resume.
A comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf Cooperation Council and the top 10 trading partners, including the European Union, could result in substantial GDP increases says Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association.
The GCC will not sign a new joint cooperation programme with the EU that involves sharing information on topics ranging from finance to climate change until both sides resolve differences over a trade agreement, the Kuwait News Agency quoted Ghanim Al Buainain, Bahrain’s minister of state for foreign affairs, as saying.
"Almost 99 per cent of the items have being agreed and only one issue related to export duties is currently being reviewed before any decision is reached,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said.
Buoyed by a big surge in exports to Dubai, Portugal said on Thursday that it expects to significantly boost its trade with the GCC after the conclusion of a long-awaited free-trade agreement between the European Union and the GCC.
Swedish officials have expressed their country’s desire for wider trade and investment relations with the UAE and for a stronger presence in the Gulf country for Swedish businesses seeking to further expand into the whole Gulf region.
Export duty is one pending issue that needs to be resolved before an EU-GCC free trade agreement is signed, disclosed Tomas Dupla del Moral, Middle East and south Mediterranean External Commissioner with the European Commission in an email exchange with the Kuwait Times this week.