Britain is launching negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for a free trade agreement (FTA) that would be worth an extra £1.6bn a year to the UK economy.
International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is visiting Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh to launch talks with GCC secretary general Dr Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf.
The GCC together – comprising of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – is equivalent to the UK’s seventh largest export market.
Trevelyan said: “Our current trading relationship was worth £33.1bn in the last year alone. From our fantastic British food and drink to our outstanding financial services, I’m excited to open up new markets for UK businesses large and small, and supporting the more than ten thousand SMEs already exporting to the region.”
Cut food tariffs
The government hopes a UK-GCC deal would benefit British farmers and producers, as the Gulf states are highly dependent on imported food.
British food and drink exports to GCC countries were worth £625m last year and the government hopes a deal would slash tariffs on foods including cereals, chocolate, baking products, biscuits and smoked salmon, reports Bloomberg.
A deal could also improve market access for hi-tech industries, including green tech, as the GCC transitions away from its reliance on fossil fuels, according to the Independent.
Currently UK wind turbine parts face a 15% tariff in the UAE, which is looking to generate half of its electricity from renewables by 2050.
Green investment is also a key plank of the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ economic strategy of Saudi Arabia, reports English-language newspaper The Arab.
Some GCC members, including the UAE, have also raised the prospect of negotiating bilateral agreements with the UK.
The GCC deal is the fourth major set of FTA talks launched this year, following visits to begin talks in India in January, Canada in March and Mexico last month.