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Free trade agreement between EU and GCC imminent

Al-Bawaba, Jordan

Free trade agreement between EU and GCC imminent

29 November 2005

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.

The two sides signed a framework for economic cooperation in 1988, but have yet to reach a final agreement on a free trade deal.

However, according to Attiyah, much headway was made during negotiations held earlier this month in Brussels. The secretary added that "great achievements" had been made which helped "resolve a large number of outstanding issues," according to the Gulf Daily News.

He added that "There is a state of optimism from both sides that they will be able to resolve certain outstanding technical issues by the year end."

In April, a successful round of talks held in Bahrain led the sides to anticipate the deal by the end of the year.

Representatives of the GCC and the EU will meet in Riyadh next week for more talks, and are expected to make further progress regarding the imminent agreement.

However, some were more cautious regarding the matter; one EU official who took part in Abu Dhabi talks in October warned that more time might possibly be needed to deal with the more problematic issues of the deal including market access, government procurement rules and intellectual property rights.

One such issue which was resolved, though with some trouble, was the 2003 implementation of a GCC customs union, a requirement of the EU.