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GCC Chief Says FTA Talks With South Korea Making Significant Progress

Bernama, Malaysia

GCC Chief Says FTA Talks With South Korea Making Significant Progress

7 June 2010

SEOUL, June 7 (Bernama) — The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and South Korea have taken big strides toward concluding free trade negotiations, although there are some remaining issues to be resolved, Yonhap News Agency reported the council’s visiting secretary general as saying Monday.

The group of six oil-producing Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia launched their free trade talks with South Korea in 2008. Their latest meeting was their third round of free trade negotiations held in July last year in Seoul.

"We reached agreements on almost all sectors including investment, service and rules of origin, although both sides need more talks on some issues," GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman Hamad Al Attiyah said in an interview with the Yonhap News Agency.

The GCC, established in 1981, is made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, and its member states hold around 40 percent of the world’s oil reserves.

The GCC was South Korea’s second-largest trading partner after China in 2008, with two-way trade reaching $101 billion.

He said bilateral trade volume has increased sharply in the past few years, and called on both sides to redouble efforts to strike a free trade deal, citing tariff concessions on automobiles, electronic goods, and other industrial goods as the stickiest ones in their free trade negotiations.

"It is time for both sides to conclude negotiations on some sticky issues at an earlier date," he said adding that South Korea needs to show flexibility on tariff concessions.

Al Attiyah said the GCC market is estimated at US$1 trillion, and South Korean companies will have good business opportunities in the member states through a free trade deal.

South Korea currently has free trade pacts with Chile, Singapore and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprising Switzerland, Norway, Ireland and Liechtenstein.

A free trade pact between Korea and the United States was signed in 2007, but still awaits ratification in the legislatures of both countries.

South Korea also has a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India. The country is also set to sign a similar deal with the European Union in the near future.