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Mandelson sees FTA this year

posted on 26/02/2007: 2164 views



The free trade agreement (FTA) between the GCC countries and the European Union is expected to be signed this year, a top EU official said yesterday. Peter Mandelson, the European Union Trade Commissioner, said that the EU is showing more flexibility on rules of origin and looks forward to speeding up the discussions. "We are approaching the final stage of the negotiations and I hope to end in success by the end of this year. I am optimistic that an agreement could be reached between the GCC and the EU in 2007," he added.



"We have some differences to narrow, and technical discussions will take place in Brussels in the coming week," said Mandelson. "I don't want to highlight any aspects of these differences because they vary, and I don't want people to say the negotiations are stuck, but there are issues to do with investment conditions and EU access to the GCC service markets. "The EU is showing more flexibility about issues of origin, and we look forward to providing the same level of flexibility on such important issues from the GCC side as well," he added.



Mandelson, who met Minister of Economy Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi yesterday in Abu Dhabi, said the talks were useful and that a technical meeting will be held in the next few days to finalise outstanding issues.



He added that Europe wants closer partnerships with its friends in the Gulf to promote the diversification of the region's economy. He added that 70 per cent of the GCC's exports to the EU are energy-related and the FTA will contribute to industrial diversification and economic growth for the GCC.



"This agreement will contribute to creating job opportunities for the GCC's rapidly growing population and demand for jobs." Mandelson, who will visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week, said the pact will help increase trade between the GCC and the EU. "An EU analysis suggests a gain of US$5 billion per year in the first year if such an agreement is concluded." he said. Sheikha Lubna said both sides have the political will to conclude the agreement this year. She added that the GCC should work harder to finalise the agreement. (Gulf News)

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