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China calls for Gulf FTA pact


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for the speedy conclusion of talks on a free trade pact with Gulf states, as he paid a visit to the UAE on Wednesday.

"Both sides need to show political will to sign the agreement as soon as possible," Wen told participants at a joint Chinese-Arab business conference in Sharjah.

"The negotiations have been going on for seven and a half years, while business communities on both sides would like to see" an agreement concluded, he said.

"The launch of a free trade area will bring benefits to both sides," added the Chinese leader who is touring the Gulf amid fears that rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programme will disrupt world oil supplies.

China and the Gulf Cooperation Council announced they were launching free trade talks in July 2004, and have since held five rounds of negotiations, according to China FTA Network.

They have agreed on most issues concerning trade in goods, it said.

Bilateral trade between the GCC and China grew tenfold to $100 billion in the past decade, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan said last year, adding the GCC aims to increase it by the same amount this decade.

On his first stop in Saudi Arabia, Wen presided over the signing of energy deals with China's top oil provider. Deals were also inked on his second stop in the UAE.