Britain and the six Arab Gulf States have officially launched negotiations for a free-trade agreement, Zayed al-Zayani, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism of Bahrein, announced on Friday night.
“It brings me great joy and pleasure to officially announce the official launch of FTA negotiations between GCC countries and UK today,” said al-Zayani, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“We shall collectively embark on a new chapter, which will solidify our longstanding trade and investment cooperation and build upon the strong foundations forged over the past centuries,” the minister added in a press release.
The United Kingdom already has strong economic and political ties with the GCC States: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. According to the British Government, trade between them totalled over £30 billion (€35 billion) in 2020, which said a free-trade agreement would shift UK-GCC relations into a higher gear.
Such an agreement would be “a huge opportunity to liberalise trade with a growing market for British business and deepen ties with a region that is vital for our strategic interests,” UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a statement.
“We want a modern, comprehensive agreement that breaks down trade barriers to a huge food and drink market and in areas like digital trade and renewable energy which will deliver well-paid jobs in all parts of the United Kingdom,” she said.
Since pulling out of the European Union, London has been moving to beef up trade ties with traditional partners such as Australia, the Gulf States and the United States.
GCC States are among the largest economies in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, while the UAE and Qatar have populations with strong purchasing power.