GCC, China urged to sign free trade pact

Gulf hydrocarbon producers and China should pursue negotations to sign a free trade agremeent that will create massive investment opportunities between the two sides, the region’s private sector’s chief said on Monday.

An initital agreement between the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and their main economic partner China to resume talks on the proposed free trade zone is particuarly important following the decline in oil prices to below $30 a barrel, said Abdul Rahim Naqi, secretary general of the Riyadh-based GCC Chambers’ Federation.

In a statement sent to Emirates 24|7, Naqi said the GCC and China have recently agreed to relaunch free trade talks, which will serve the interests of the sides.

“The free trade agreement is essential to expand economic relations between the GCC and China, which has a massive market and is expected to exceed the US economy after the year 2020. China has also become the world’s second oil consumer after the United States by surpassing Japan,” he said.

“The agreement by the two sides to restart the free trade negotiations is very important. What is needed now is for the two sides to intensify the negotiations so they can sign the free trade pact as soon as possible.”

Naqi said the pact would sharply boost trade between the two sides, estimating it at around $83 billion (Dh305 billion) in 2011, including nearly $49 billion (Dh180 billion) worth of Chinese exports to the GCC, the world’s largest oil exporting bloc.

He did not gave figures for the following years but said there was a steady rise in the exchange.

“The agreement will also open up massive investment scopes in the two regions and allow the GCC to attract Chinese technology in various fields…China can also invest in many sectors in the GCC, including oil, gas and manufacturing,” he said.

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