UK launches consultation ahead of new trade talks with Gulf states

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Britain has launched a 14-week consultation on a future trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), seeking public and business views ahead of International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan expected to begin talks in 2022. Has been doing.

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The GCC includes the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates And it is one of the UK’s largest trading partners.

Total bilateral trade in 2020 stood at over £30 billion and the deal with the six monarchies is seen as a major target for Britain after Brexit.

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According to international trade department (DIT), it will take relationships in future industries such as digital trade, services and green development to the next level – providing high-paying jobs across the country.

/ PA Wire

Ms Trevelyan said: “A trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council is a great opportunity to liberalize trade with a growing market for British trade and deepen ties with a region important to our strategic interests.

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“We want a modern, comprehensive agreement that breaks down trade barriers in areas such as a vast food and beverage market and digital trade and renewable energy that will provide well-paying jobs in all parts of the UK.”

International Trade Secretary, who has now succeeded – Foreign Secretary liz truss recently cabinet The reshuffle is expected to lead to a bilateral meeting in London with GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Falah M Al-Hajraf and members of the Government of Bahrain, who is currently the rotating presidency of the GCC.

Expiring in January 2022, the consultation includes a questionnaire aimed at gathering information from participants about their experiences and preferences when doing business with countries in the GCC to ensure that any future deals are in the best interests of the UK. It reflects.

Above all there is a question of ethics, and whether we should be prepared to agree on preferential terms of business with a group of autocrats who have a record of human rights abuses, abuse of workers and some of the worst in the world. subjugation of women

Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardene said: “The countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council are one of our largest trading and investment partners and home to over 50 million people.

“From the export of Welsh lamb and Scotch beef to biscuits in Belfast and financial services from the City of London, I am committed to striking a deal that will further strengthen our relationship, attract investment, boost business opportunities and Will provide significant benefits for British business, creating jobs in communities across the country.”

Paul Benton, International Managing Director of the Association of British Healthtech Industries (ABHI), said: “As the region’s economy has matured and diversified in recent years, we have seen a significant demand for UK healthtech, and business opportunities are emerging. This sector will give a further boost to it.”

shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry Said that there are undoubtedly opportunities for British businesses in the Gulf, but there were “a lot of practical questions as well”.

She said: “There are undoubtedly opportunities for British businesses in the Gulf, from green technology and the construction industry to educational exports and recreational services, but there are also a lot of practical questions.

“How prepared is DIT to negotiate a deal where barriers to service exports are the main issue, not tariffs; Will ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) be a feature of this agreement as it is in our investment deal with the UAE? What commitments will the GCC make on climate change? And at a basic level, how easy would it be to agree on common rules with a group of countries that still have vastly different systems of their own?

“But above all there is a question of ethics, and whether we should be willing to agree on preferential terms of business with a group of autocrats who have some of the world’s worst records for human rights abuses, abuse of workers… ., and the subjugation of women.

“Will this proposed agreement include serious, enforceable commitments on human rights, or are we going to turn a blind eye to those abuses in search of a quick deal? But it should not come at the cost of our principles and values.

Since its inception in 1981, there have been few instances where the GCC has been able to conclude free trade agreements.

Deals with the four countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Singapore are among the few that have been successfully concluded.

Others have failed for political reasons. In 1990, free trade negotiations were initiated between the GCC and the European Union, but the latter failed due to Europe’s insistence on the inclusion of a human rights clause. Negotiations ended without a deal in 2008.

Similarly, trade talks with Australia began in July 2007 but ended two years later without a deal.

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