GCC-EU eye 2004 trade pact

Saudi Arabia's recent trade accord with the European Union and its efforts to join the WTO by 2004, are paving the way for a free trade agreement between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

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By  John Irish Published  September 17, 2003

Just days after Saudi Arabia and the European Union (EU) ratified a bilateral trade agreement, meetings between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) suggest that a free trade agreement between the two organisations could be on the cards in the coming year.

Speaking to the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, Mohammed Ahmed Al 'Amir, the GCC's ambassador for the European Union, claimed that the round of talks held between the two bodies last week had proved the most successful to date achieving several compromises specific to goods and services.

Among the issues discussed were proposals made by the EU that would facilitate a trade agreement between the two organisations, including the outflow of agricultural and manufacturing goods and exports of fish.

"We hope that we will be rid of all obstacles, which have prevented an accord between us and them," said Al 'Amer.

Despite the positive nature of the negotiations, Al 'Amer added that a number of topics still needed to be looked at before the next ministerial meeting between the two organisations, scheduled for April 2004 in Riyadh.

Some of the main stumbling blocks to be resolved are government purchases, human rights and how the region is dealing with terrorism.

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