GCC (Arabian Gulf)

The EU established bilateral relations with the GCC countries through a Cooperation Agreement signed in 1988. It forsees the establishment of an annual Joint Council/Ministerial Meeting between the EU and the GCC foreign ministers as well as between senior officials at a Joint Cooperation Committee.

Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

The 1988 Cooperation Agreement contained a commitment from both sides to enter into negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement. The negotiations were initiated in 1990 but soon reached a standstill. In 1999, the negotiations regained momentum after the GCC’s declaration to create a customs union (entry into force: January 2003). Negotiations resumed in March 2002. They have taken place at an accelerated rate during 2007.

The GCC is currently the EU’s fifth largest export market and the EU is the top trading partner for the GCC.

EU exports to GCC

Diverse but focussed on machinery and transport materials, e.g. power generation plants, railway locomotives and aircraft as well as electrical machinery and mechanical appliances.

EU imports from GCC

Mainly fuels and derivatives (70% of total EU imports from the region in 2006).
All six GCC countries currently benefit from preferential access to the EU market under the EU’s generalised system of preferences (GSP).

EU-GCC free trade agreement

Negotiations were relaunched in 2002 with a new, wider mandate that includes trade in services and investment.

The agreement would provide for progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade in goods and services, aiming to ensure a comparable level of market access opportunities, taking account of GCC countries’ level of development.

Negotiations cover:

  • market access for goods and services
  • common rules and disciplines for intellectual property rights
  • competition
  • dispute settlement
  • rules of origin
  • human rights
  • illegal immigration
  • terrorism.

The EU-GCC agreement has been subject to a public sustainability impact assessment.

EC-GCC cooperation agreement

The framework for economic and political cooperation is the 1989 EU-GCC cooperation agreement. The agreement seeks to improve trade relations and stability in a strategic part of Europe’s wider neighbourhood.

The agreement created a Joint Council (meeting annually) and working groups on industrial cooperation, energy and the environment.

EU-GCC economic dialogue

Since 2003, EU policymakers have been sharing their experience of economic unification with policymakers from the Gulf, which is undergoing a similar process.

Topics have included common trade policy, fiscal aspects of a single currency and moving from customs union to a single market.