Muscat – H E Qais bin Mohammed al Yousef, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, and Greg Hands, the British Minister of State for Trade Policy, discussed the free trade agreement (FTA) between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the United Kingdom, via video call on Monday.
The meeting was convened to advance the next round of free trade negotiations between the GCC and the United Kingdom, and expand the areas of economic and investment cooperation.
The fifth round of negotiations for FTA between the UK and GCC took place between November 5 to 16. The round was hosted by the GCC in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in a hybrid fashion. A number of UK negotiators travelled to Riyadh for in-person discussions with others attending virtually.
“Draft treaty text was advanced across the majority of chapters. Technical discussions were held across 21 policy areas over 40 sessions. Good progress was made and both sides remain committed to securing an ambitious, comprehensive and modern agreement fit for the 21st century,” Hands had told the UK parliament.
An FTA will be a substantial economic opportunity and a significant moment in the UK-GCC relationship, he added.
In an interview with Qatar News Agency, Hands informed that the next round of talks will be held in London at the end of this month.
“We have still a lot of work to do on goods markets, on investment and services, and financial services,” he noted.
On the challenges that face the free trade agreement, he said that they are normal challenges that any trade negotiation would face, while underlining the fact that 72 trade agreements have been negotiated in total.
“Sometimes you have to give away a little bit more than you wanted to give away. But ultimately trade is a win for both sides. This will grow the GCC economy by more than a billion pounds per annum. We do £61bn worth of trade a year with the GCC currently,” he said.
GCC has signed FTAs with South Korea and Pakistan, which is a historic step towards achieving Gulf economic integration and strengthening economic and trade relations between the respective sides.
It is expected that these agreements will contribute to increasing the volume of bilateral trade, increasing trade in goods and services between the two parties, and enhancing economic diversification plans.