GCC and EU to sign FTA deal by November 2007

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected to sign the long-awaited free-trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union by October or November this year. However, the next round of negotiations in Brussels would be crucial to the conclusion of this vital accord. The GCC-EU free trade agreement is expected to boost GCC exports to Europe and bring more foreign direct investment to the member countries that seek funds to carry out vital projects in energy, petrochemical, telecom, power generation, railway and desalination sectors. It will also improve economic welfare in the GCC member states. The GCC, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, has been holding FTA talks for the last 18 years. It has already fulfilled 95% of the conditions for the prestigious agreement. GCC foreign ministers are expected to discuss the FTA issue during their meeting in Jeddah on Saturday. The Jeddah meeting would discuss matters related to a GCC common market in preparation to announce its formation at the next GCC summit, and will also review the progress of negotiations with economic groups. GCC countries import EU goods worth 47.4 billion euros, thus becoming Europe's fifth largest market in the world. GCC imports include cars, planes, machinery, and building materials. GCC exports crude oil, petrochemicals and aluminum products worth 35.2 billion euros to Europe. It holds 14th place among foreign exporters to EU countries.
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