German chancellor Angela Merkel has stated her commitment to pushing forward long-stalled negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
During meetings with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the German head of state underlined the importance of forging stronger economic ties between the EU and the Gulf, in order to build on the growth of two-way trade between the regions in recent years, reports Reuters.
EU figures indicate that trade between the EU and the six GCC nations - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - came to €138 billion in 2016, with exports from EU countries to the GCC valued at €100 billion and imports to the EU making up the remainder.
Talks over an FTA to capitalize on this momentum have been ongoing for the past two decades, but little progress has been seen in recent years - a trend that the German leader is seeking to address.
"I made it clear that a free trade agreement with the Gulf states would be of great interest from a European point of view," said Mrs Merkel.
In addition to being a key member of the EU, Germany is particularly heavily reliant on foreign trade, which makes up half of the country's GDP. This means it is particularly keen to fight for the cause of free trade, which has come under threat from the protectionist trade agenda of US president Donald Trump and the political fallout of the UK's vote to leave the EU.
The GCC states, meanwhile, are looking to diversify their economies and bolster their non-oil trade performance, after more than two years of low global oil prices.