German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during her official visits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia that the economic relations between the European Union and the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries should be strengthened. Mrs. Merkel also added that the GCC countries could finally complete a free trade agreement with the EU – something that she discussed with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince.
Berlin fears that the new protectionism promoted by US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May would harm the German economy, which relies heavily on foreign trade for its gross domestic product. Chancellor Merkel made it clear during her visit to both countries that the economic ties between both regions need a boost. “I made it clear that a free trade agreement with the Gulf states would be of great interest from a European point of view,” she stressed during her visit to Jeddah on Sunday (30 April). She also said that the EU had made another offer for a free trade deal with the Gulf countries but the GCC has yet to respond.
Trade between both regions amounted to 138 billion euro in 2016. European exports to the GCC were worth 100 billion euros and imports to the EU were worth 38 billion euros. Mutual trade flows have been growing steadily over past ten years in both ways. Although the EU-GCC ties have been in the making for about 20 years, not much progress had been made recently. The EU is pushing for more openness in trade relations, specifically by speeding up free trade agreements with the GCC, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.