The European Parliament debated on Tuesday, 16 January, the trade and sustainable developments in EU Trade Agreement. Regarding the Trade Agreement negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, EPP MEP Ramona Mănescu suggested that the European Commission should consider the ”country by country approach”.
Starting with Oman and Qatar, both countries being ”a role model for the region”, such a proceeding could have the potential to unlock the entire process of negotiations, Romanian MEP said.
”Dear Commissioner, I salute your initiative on promoting the sustainable trade approach. As we already know from previous successful experience, FTA is the perfect entry door for many other policies, programs and areas of interest, such as human and workers rights or environmental issues. The Gulf Area is a top priority for the EU as well. Related to this area, EU has much more topics on its agenda, than just trade: defense and security cooperation, the fight against terrorism and regional cooperation for the support and stabilisation of surrounding regions, especially the Middle East and the Sub-Saharan Africa. And all of these are high on EU priorities’ agenda.
Unfortunately, the EU GCC negotiations for an FTA are suspended since 2008. In the line with the current debate, on the ways to improve the trade agreement , I would like the Commission to consider the possibility of a country by country approach in the Gulf Area. The EU already signed successful FTA with many third countries, I don’t see why we can’t have a similar approach in relation with the GCC members. The Commission must know already that there are several GCC countries open to a bilateral FTA with the EU. We all know Oman as a successful stable country, a role model for the whole region and we also notice the remarkable progress made by Qatar in its legislation concerning the protection of workers’ rights and labour condition, changes that have been already noticed by both International Labour Organisation and the United Nations.
These two countries can represent a good start for a new approach in FTA negotiations to be considered by the Commission for this region. Such a proceeding has the potential to unlock the process for the whole GCC. We can even use the experience from different area of policy, the visa regime. A liberalisation in the EU relation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was followed by a clear increase in trade between the parties and improvements in the same time of the human rights situation in the UAE. Therefore, visa liberalisation can also go hand in hand with the negotiations for free trade agreements with these countries and others in the region.”
The six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) represent an important region from a trade point of view and were the EU’s fourth largest export market in 2016. The GCC countries have formed their own customs union and are working towards the goal of completing an internal market.
There is an ongoing cooperation between the EU and GCC on trade and investment issues, macro-economic matters, climate change, energy and environment as well as research. A more structured informal EU-GCC dialogue on Trade and Investment was launched in May 2017.