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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

GCC rejects strings to EU free trade deal
Gulf Cooperation Council says will not accept any political conditions by the European Union to sign a free trade agreement. The EU’s final position is expected in July.
’EU lobby behind delay in FTA deal’
The European Union has delayed signing a free trade agreement with the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council countries because of opposition by a powerful lobby within the EU, a Saudi official was quoted as saying yesterday.
Arab Gulf states disappointed with talks on free trade pact with EU
Kuwait’s foreign minister says Arab Gulf states are "disappointed" with the slow pace of their negotiations with the European Union on a free trade pact.
Human rights vow over trade talks
Human rights issues will be high on the agenda in negotiations between the European Union and the GCC on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a senior official declared in Bahrain last night.
Early GCC-EU trade pact urged
The Federation of the GCC Chambers is inviting the European Union and the GCC to speed up signing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two blocs.
UN to review rights report
Bahrain human rights activists will raise issues related to "unconstitutional" constituency boundaries at a key meeting with the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. They are joining another group of activists from GCC states, who will meet officials from the European Union Commission and European Parliament in Brussels. The GCC group will highlight their reservations on their governments’ approach to various human rights issues ahead of the signing of a Gulf-EU Free trade agreement.
Free trade with EU entails endless conditions
It seems that more time is needed before the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and 27-member European Union sign a long-awaited free trade agreement. Qatar’s deputy premier and minister of energy and industry Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah recently raised the alarm bells, speaking of "endless" EU conditions.
EU, GCC fail to end free trade obstacles
The Gulf Cooperation Council and 25-member European Union failed on Sunday to overcome obstacles to a free trade agreement that has eluded them for nearly 20 years, the Qatari finance minister said.
UAE still keen on Gulf-EU free trade agreement
The delay in signing the EU-GCC FTA has resulted in a chain reaction as the European Union will now apply new standards in negotiating trade agreements, according to Sweden’s minister of "free" trade
UK exporters losing out over EU’s protracted Free Trade Agreements with Gulf nations
UK businesses are increasingly likely to lose out to the US on valuable Gulf export opportunities because it is taking so long for the EU to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the region’s key states, says Trowers & Hamlins, the international law firm.