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 wording of the agreement remains undecided along with issues concerning service industries and investment rules.
Gulf Arab states and the European Union are likely to finalise a free trade deal by June, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council said on Monday.
European-Gulf negotiations on a joint free trade agreement have faltered anew due to fresh European economic preconditions for the signing, an Omani representative said Wednesday.
The EU has agreed to reduce import tariffs on aluminum and petrochemicals from the Gulf to zero in an attempt to conclude their FTA negotiations. In return, the EU wants the limit on foreigners owning majority stakes in Gulf companies ended.
Negotiations between European Union and GCC officials at ministerial level have been delayed until May, an EU source announced yesterday.
A final deal which is expected to be clinched during Mandelson’s visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia from February 24.
The ongoing negotiations between the GCC and the EU to reach a free trade agreement are achieving remarkable progress and the agreement is expected to be signed before the end of this year as planned, according to an EU official.
The EU has brought up new subjects that "hasn’t really made the GCC side too happy" in terms of delaying the EU-GCC FTA negotiations. "You saw the negotiations being filled with all kinds of issues that really shouldn’t have been a part of an FTA agreement: human rights, political reform and (anti-) terrorism strategies."
The EU-GCC free trade agreement will open a new era of economic, trade, investment and commercial activities between the two blocs, a top French envoy in the Kingdom told Bahrain Tribune.
A free trade agreement (FTA) between the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and 25-member European Union (EU) could be clinched as early as year-end as there seems to be a possibility that the two sides will relax rules related to investments and rules of origin.