Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has launched free trade negotiations between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
Equivalent to the UK’s seventh largest export market, the GCC bloc’s demand for international products and services is expected to grow rapidly to £800 billion by 2035, a 35% increase, which the government say will open up “huge new opportunities for UK businesses.”
In a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Secretary of State met with the GCC Secretary General, Dr Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf, and her counterparts from all six GCC countries, to launch talks expected to culminate in a trade deal worth £1.6 billion more a year to the UK economy. A statement from Defra said that “ a free trade deal would also open the door to increased investment from the Gulf, supporting and creating jobs across the country.”
The latest development is the fourth in a major set of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations launched by the Trade Secretary this year, following visits to begin talks in India in January, Canada in March, and the launch of negotiations with Mexico last month.
Speaking on 22nd June, UK Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan commented: “Today marks the next significant milestone in our 5-star year of trade as we step up the UK’s close relationship with the Gulf.
“Our current trading relationship was worth £33.1 billion in the last year alone. From our fantastic British food and drink to our outstanding financial services, I’m excited to open up new markets for the UK.”
She added: “The UK-GCC deal would mean significant benefits for British farmers and producers, as the Gulf is highly dependent on imported food. British food and drink exports to GCC countries were worth £625 million last year, and a deal could significantly reduce or remove tariffs on UK food and drink exports.”
Tariffs that could be slashed include cereals, which currently face a tariff of up to 25%; chocolate, up to 15%; baking products, up to 12%; sweet biscuits, up to 10%; and smoked salmon, which has a 5% tariff at present.”
Reacting to the news, co-founder and director of Spice Kitchen, an SME exporter based in Liverpool, Sanjay Aggarwal said: “We went to Gulfood with DIT on a research mission and from this we know there is a massive market for our products, like our spice tins and single spice blends in the premium gifting space.
“It’s so important for our business to be linking with the GCC and enables us to grow rapidly in exciting ways we never thought possible. We are in the process of identifying retailers in the Gulf, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”