FTA between GCC, EU expected to be sealed next March: Kuwaiti official

Xinhua 2009-09-30

FTA between GCC, EU expected to be sealed next March: Kuwaiti official

KUWAIT CITY, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — The long-awaited negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected to be completed by next March, a Kuwaiti senior official said Tuesday.

The two blocs were continuing "consultations" on the initiative although disagreements have forced the talks to be halted, said Adnan al-Kandari, director of the Finance Ministry’s Economic Negotiation Department.

The six-nation GCC started talks with the 27-member EU 19 years ago in efforts to boost exports to Europe and bring more influx of foreign direct investment to member states.

But the GCC said last December it had suspended talks with the EU to sign the world’s first region-to-region free trade accord, after years of dormancy and hard negotiations.

GCC Secretary General Abdurrahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah blamed the EU for relating the free trade pact with political issues such as human rights.

Attiyah also criticized the regional bloc for imposing high taxes on exports from GCC.

"Political issues, such as the human rights situation, were needlessly brought into these trade negotiations," Al-Kandar said.

Established in 1981, the GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and holds around 40 percent of the world’s oil reserves.

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source: Xinhua