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UAE still keen on Gulf-EU free trade agreement

Gulfnews | November 09 2007

UAE still keen on Gulf-EU free trade agreement

By Ahmed A. Elewa, Staff Reporter

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is still keen on reaching a free trade agreement (FTA) between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union, according to Sweden’s minister of trade.

The negotiations for the pact have been going for more than 16 years, the longest negotiating period ever recorded for a trade deal.

"The UAE Minister of Economy, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, revealed her interest in concluding the deal, and Sweden agrees to the importance of such agreement to boost the relations between the two blocs," Ewa Bjorling, Sweden’s Minister of Trade told Gulf News last Tuesday.

The minister, who was visiting the country to participate in a Swedish forum promoting Swedish small and medium enterprises, seeks to strengthen the trade relations and increase her country’s exports to the UAE.

"We already have more than 200 companies operating in the UAE, and we enjoy excellent trade relations, but further growth is needed, especially in the fields of healthcare, education, and our social welfare system," she said.

Despite the fact that the weakening dollar has dragged the dirham’s exchange rate down, the Swedish minister does not see the trend to substantially affect her country’s exports to the region.

"Foreign exchange markets always fluctuate, and we do not take that into consideration when it comes to our trading partners in the region," she said.

The delay in signing the FTA by the beginning of this year, as was previously planned, resulted in a chain reaction as the European Union will now apply new standards in negotiating trade agreements, shifting the process to a new generation of agreements.

"I like to call myself the minister of free trade, rather than the minister of trade, and our support for the case is apparent, yet there remain some issues that need to be finalised," the minister added.

 source: Gulf News