The UK has announced preparations to land a post-Brexit trade deal with the six Middle Eastern countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
New international trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has launched a 14-week consultation on what businesses would like to see in a trade deal, before negotiations start next year.
According to the Department for International Trade, the GCC is already an important trading partner, with almost £22bn of UK exports and bilateral trade worth more than £30bn in 2020.
The GCC is a regional trading bloc made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Modern comprehensive agreement
According to the Independent, the DIT thinks a deal would benefit digital trade, services and green growth.
Trevelyan is expected to hold a bilateral meeting in London today with GCC secretary-general Dr Nayef Falah M Al-Hajraf and members of the Bahrain government, who currently hold the rotating presidency of the GCC
She said: “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 UK.”
According to City AM, the UK has already signed two multi-year agreements with the UAE this year, which will see billions of pounds invested in Britain.
GCC pushes for rapid deal
Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain called on the UK government to strike a rapid deal for a free-trade agreement with the region during the Conservative Party conference this week, reports the National News.
At an event hosted by the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC), UAE ambassador to the UK Mansoor Abulhoul said: “Our economies generally complement one another in sectors so I think there’s real high ambition there to strike a competitive free trade agreement.”
Saudi Arabia’s emissary also argued for greater British investment in the region.
“We are looking for greater investment from the UK into our part of the world, it’s not one-way traffic,” said Prince Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud, who added that the kingdom would soon announce significant investment projects in the UK.
Yesterday, it was announced that the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund had completed the £305m purchase of Newcastle United FC, reports the BBC.
As covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, striking a deal with the Gulf monarchies would not be without controversy given the region’s reputation for human rights abuses and draconian laws.