UK and GCC to begin FTA talks

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The UK and Gulf Cooperation Council are to hold negotiations on a new free trade agreement, with the first round of talks due to begin this summer.

The UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are on course to establish closer commercial ties, with negotiations on a new free trade agreement (FTA) due to begin over the summer months.

Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the GCC is a political and economic union that comprises six Middle Eastern nations: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A joint statement released by the UK Department for International Trade and the GCC said the FTA will be an "ambitious, comprehensive and modern agreement" that is "fit for the 21st century". The deal will focus on driving economic growth and job creation by promoting trade in goods and services, while also supporting innovation and emerging technologies.

In an article written for UAE-based newspaper The National, UK international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said demand for British goods and services is "booming" across the Gulf.

The region is already equivalent to the UK's seventh-largest export market, with total trade reaching a value of £33.1 billion (US$40.7 billion) in 2021. It's also predicted that consumer demand across GCC member states will increase to £800 billion by 2035.

Ms Trevelyan said the FTA negotiations represent a "major milestone" for the UK as it seeks to strengthen international trade relations following its departure from the European Union. The country has also commenced talks with India, Mexico and Canada.

"A UK-GCC FTA could throw open a door to the region's vibrant economies for UK firms in sectors ranging from agri-business to financial services," she added.

"In turn, these firms' expertise and experience could support GCC members to meet the challenges of a changing world."

Existing commercial links between the UK and the Gulf region include the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership, which commits £10 billion of investment to innovation-driven sectors such as technology, healthcare, life sciences and renewable energy.