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EU interested in UAE free trade deal as GCC talks stall

Arabian Business | 7 May 2024

EU interested in UAE free trade deal as GCC talks stall

The EU would be interested in a UAE free-trade deal if talks for a GCC-wide agreement do not progress, according to a top official.

As there is no progress in European Union-Gulf Cooperation Council talks on a free trade agreement (FTA), the EU is actively seeking alternative avenues for economic cooperation with GCC states, said Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner for Budget and Administration.

In an interview with UAE state-run news agency WAM, he said: “We would be interested, of course, to get an agreement [with GCC], but we have not made a lot of progress. So, potentially it is also useful to look into alternatives”.

UAE-EU free-trade deal

Without elaborating on the alternatives, when asked whether the EU will be interested in bilateral FTA with the UAE, if no further progress in talks with GCC as a bloc, Hahn asserted the importance of exploring all opportunities.

Hahn said: “I think, the one [talks with GCC] doesn’t exclude the other [potential bilateral deal with the UAE]. And I think it’s important once again, to seize all the potentials and the opportunities.

“Because, at the end of the day, if we have a strong, contractual relationship, this is conducive for both of us.”

He described the alignment between the EU and the UAE as “soft powers” that rely on economic strength and cooperation.

The Commissioner explained that the EU already has 70 trade agreements with global partners and is keen on forging all kinds of international agreements, in particular trade agreements.

“Because we believe this is safeguarding a global order, which is based on agreements and treaties and not on the power of weapons.”

The EU Commissioner was in Dubai to speak at a conference titled “Europe: the opportunity for global investors” on Wednesday.

Talking about the positive reception of EU bonds, particularly green bonds, at the conference, he emphasised the role of these bonds in economic recovery and resilience of Europe, and green bonds facilitating a clean transition not just within the EU but globally.

The EU expects to become the world’s fifth-largest bond issuer within the next two to three years, reaching a total issuance volume of nearly €1tn ($1.07tn/AED3.67tn), Hahn said.

He explained that the funds raised from green bonds will be used for various green initiatives, including renewable energy production, energy efficiency, circular economy projects and smart city development.

The Commissioner said the EU is a global leader in issuing green bonds, expecting to reach around €250bn ($269bn).

About the EU’s commitment to gender equality and diversity in the workplace, he detailed the efforts to create a flexible working environment and promote gender balance at managerial levels.

The official acknowledged the need to catch up in reflecting the diversity of EU society within the Commission’s staff composition.

However, he highlighted significant strides in gender equality, with the organisation nearing its target of 50 percent female representation at the managerial level by the end of the current mandate.

He expressed the EU’s interest in potential cooperation with the UAE in exchanging ideas and best practices on gender equality and diversity in the workplace.

Hahn discussed the EU Commission’s commitment to digitalisation, including investing in artificial intelligence (AI) within the public administration.

He emphasised the importance of improving interoperability between member states’ public administrations and highlighted the successful development of a sophisticated e-translation programme that handles the 24 official languages within EU.

“Our translators have translated 2.8m pages in 24 languages, and this is only achievable with e-translation. This has also reduced the number of translators by 40 percent over the years.”

He acknowledged the potential for cooperation with the UAE in areas such as AI research and innovation, combating disinformation, fake news and sharing expertise.

 source: Arabian Business