Bahrain Tribune - 15/07/2006
FTA to herald new era of partnership between EU and GCC
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.
Maleka Barrek, the French Ambassador in Bahrain, on the Bastilles Day anniversary said that in the light of the recent talks between the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council representatives, there were strong indications the agreement would be signed soon.
She said: "France as part of Europe sees the regional framework like EU-GCC FTA an opportunity which will have a profound impact on growth of both sides. We believe in regional groups as the bilateral agreements cannot exploit the existing potential among the various blocs. Though, it was not easy on the part of the GCC to negotiate the treaty as a group but the GCC has made a significant progress during the last meeting. It is good approach on the part of the GCC to take advantage of the huge European bloc as a trade partner by concluding a trade treaty. "
Barrek said: "The EU-GCC FTA will open a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the EU and GCC. This dream will become reality soon as both sides have achieved great strides through negotiations. There are strong indications that the agreement will be in place in the near future, giving a fair chance to both blocs to enhance the existing base of trade, economic and investment ties."
Following the last EU-GCC meeting, the officials said that after the signing of the agreement the current trade of 40 billion euros could be more than doubled
Barrek said France and Bahrain enjoy friendly relations and both sides have been working hard to explore various opportunities of cooperation in the trade, investment and commercial fields. "There are more French companies coming to Bahrain establishing their offices and also making huge investments. We will see some major projects coming to Bahrain as the top leadership of both countries is continuously encouraging the private sector to work together for mutual benefits.
The ambassador said that Bahrain has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the region and this country needs the experience and expertise of France in all vital sectors.
She said: "The economic and commercial ties between the two countries are growing in line with the vision of the leaderships of both countries. French companies are keen to make investments in various areas after the privatisation announced by the government.
More and more French companies are planning to make investments in Bahrain as the agreements signed by various companies in 2005 will yield results by the year-end."
The ambassador added: "France is very much impressed with the development in the political sector in the Kingdom. The democratic institutions in the Kingdom are progressing and France is offering all possible assistance to the institutions in this regard. We believe in dialogue within a society aimed at creating consensus on all major issues and we will continue to work with our Bahraini partners in future as well."