x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE to push GCC-EU free trade plan

The UAE will push for a long-awaited free trade agreement between the GCC and the European Union during the Emirates presidency of the Gulf states' bloc next year, said the Foreign Minister.

ABU DHABI // The UAE will push for a long-awaited free trade agreement between the GCC and the European Union during the Emirates presidency of the Gulf states' bloc next year, said the Foreign Minister. Talks over the trade agreement were suspended following a meeting in April 2009 between top EU and Gulf officials in Muscat. The negotiations had started in 1990 but were suspended on several occasions due to lack of agreement on a number of issues. Last April, officials grappled with a clause dealing with human rights and failed to agree on the amount of tax levied on Gulf exports.

"Many agreements with other blocs have been taken long time and we will make it a priority to speed up the process," Sheikh Abdullah told members of the Federal National Council on Tuesday. "This agreement will foster the position of the GCC and enhance the relationship between the GCC and other blocs," he said. Kuwait is the president of the Gulf's economic and political bloc. The UAE will take over presidency after the annual GCC summit meeting, which will be held in the capital in December.

"We in the Emirates have big hopes for the GCC summit," said Sheikh Abdullah. "The presidency would not be based only on intra-Gulf work, but also working with other countries." During an official visit to Berlin in November, Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, the FNC speaker, urged German officials to use their influence to push for finalising the treaty. Mr al Ghurair said then that the disagreement over a clause that stipulates the "suspension" of the agreement if the GCC states failed to respect human rights was nearly solved.

He added, however, that imposing further taxation on GCC exports would "defeat the purpose of free agreement". mhabboush@thenational.ae