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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

Gulf, EU show flexibility in reaching a compromise
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.
EU presses for conclusion of free-trade deal with GCC
European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson called Saturday for talks in Brussels with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, so that a final free trade deal with the Gulf Arab bloc can be struck by year-end.
GCC-EU free trade talks in final stages
The Gulf states all set to have a common market by 2007, GCC secretary general, H E Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, said yesterday.
Free trade pact with EU near
The Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union are close to sealing a free trade agreement after outstanding issues, including EU tariffs on exports of aluminium and petrochemicals, were resolved last week, a UAE ministry official said yesterday.
FTA with GCC within reach - EU
A free trade agreement (FTA) between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union is within reach, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told Arab News in a telephone interview from EU headquarters in Brussels.
Cartoons threat to EU trade talks
Free trade negotiations between the EU and GCC face being disrupted by the ongoing controversy surrounding cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), according to a Saudi official involved in the talks.
EU-AGCC FTA to be signed next year
A free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and the AGCC, the first region to region trade agreement outside Europe, will not be concluded by the end of this year as originally scheduled, according to a high-ranking EU official.
EU regrets postponing free trade accord with GCC - European official
European Commissioner for Justice Franco Fratini expressed on Tuesday regret because the GCC Summit postponed yesterday signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU, calling on Gulf states to advance cooperation with the EU.
GCC and European Union: 17-year old FTA negotiations
The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and European Union (EU) have started since 1988. However, there have been always obstacles that prevented the achievement of a final agreement.
Free trade agreement between EU and GCC imminent
The European Union and GCC are expected to conclude talks on establishing a free trade deal in the near future. The deal, which has been a long time in the making, is likely to be sealed by the end of the current year, according to Abdurrahman Al Attiyah, the GCC Secretary General.