Gulf News, Abu Dhabi
GCC-EU trade pact talks make remarkable progress
By Ahmad Ameen, Staff Reporter
22 August 2006
Abu Dhabi: The ongoing negotiations between the GCC and the EU to reach a free trade agreement are achieving remarkable progress and the agreement is expected to be signed before the end of this year as planned, according to an EU official.
"Since the visit of the European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, to Abu Dhabi in June, the negotiations have received the political stamina necessary for achieving remarkable progress," he said.
"At the official and technical levels, there have been a lot of activities since Abu Dhabi’s meeting, and the European side is currently identifying the final stage of the negotiations," the official said yesterday.
"Progress is evident for all the aspects of the negotiations, and the hurdles that were lingering in the past are no more an issue," he added.
A meeting at the ministerial level is expected to take place as soon as the official and technical committees finalise their work.
In June the outstanding issues were identified in four areas, namely market access, rules of origin, government procurement and application of the investment protection and guarantees criteria.
Technical experts of both sides met in Brussels in July to discuss remaining differences, and a ministerial meeting is expected soon.
The EU wanted unrestricted access to investment opportunities including the energy sector. There was no agreement within the GCC as regards to foreign investment in energy projects, and there seems a possibility that the GCC countries will relax the rules related to investments and rules of origin.
The GCC would also most likely agree to the EU’s request regarding European investments in the region.
For its part, the EU has indicated willingness to show flexibility with regards to conditions attached to rules of origin for qualifying GCC products.
The EU is the GCC’s largest trading partner, and the GCC is the fifth largest market for EU products.