GCC and UK aim to boost trade as top ministers meet in Oman

A free trade agreement could boost opportunities for British companies to enter the Gulf markets and make it easier for GCC nations to gain access to UK expertise across sectors

British and Omani officials hold a meeting to explore avenues of joint collaboration. Photo: British embassy in Oman
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London is exploring ways to boost trade relations with the GCC countries, with the British trade minister attending a top-level ministerial meeting in Salalah, Oman, on Thursday to strengthen the GCC-UK free trade agreement.

As part of the 65th GCC Trade Co-operation Committee meeting, Nigel Huddleston, the UK’s Minister of State for International Trade, held talks with Oman’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion Qais Al Yousef to explore avenues of joint collaboration between the nations.

“There’s a great prize on offer here – the potential for what we can achieve together in the years and decades to come is huge,” Mr Huddleston said.

The two sides discussed co-operation in the fields of trade, renewable energy and green hydrogen, as well as the tasks before the Omani-British Strategic Advisory Group.

The ministers also reviewed indicators of growth in trade exchange and the progress made in negotiations of the free trade agreement between GCC states and the UK, the Oman News Agency reported.

Mr Huddleston also held discussions with Nasser Al Jashmi, secretary general of Oman's Ministry of Finance and head of his country's side in the Omani-British Strategic Advisory Group, and Mohsin Al Hadhrami, undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals.

“Great to discuss with Omani ministers building on the UK-Oman trading relationship – worth £1.3 billion [$1.61 billion],” Mr Huddleston wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“A UK- GCC wide trade will help drive renewable investment into energy initiatives, remove tariffs on top UK exports and strengthen our supply chains.”

The trade agreement could boost opportunities for British companies to enter the “booming Gulf markets” and make it easier for GCC citizens to gain access to British expertise in areas such as life sciences, artificial intelligence and renewable energy, a statement from the UK government said.

Talks continue between the UK and GCC on a free trade agreement that could lead to a 16 per cent increase in trade volumes, it said.

“We already have strong trade ties with the GCC and I am delighted to take this opportunity to strengthen our ties. We want a free trade agreement that is modern, inclusive and ambitious, fosters innovation, encourages investment and helps develop the sectors of the future,” said Mr Huddleston, the first British minister to attend the GCC trade ministers conference.

“This agreement offers a huge benefit – what we can achieve together in the years and decades to come is very enormous.”

The GCC is one of the UK’s most important trading partners, with trade growing to £65.2 billion in 2022, the British government statement said.

Total UK-GCC trade stands at “£65.2 billion”, Mr Huddleston wrote on X.

“A trade deal would present fantastic opportunities for both of our economies,” he added.

A free trade agreement with the GCC would “add at least £1.6 billion [$1.97 billion] a year to the UK economy”, Dominic Johnson, Minister for Investment in the Department for Business and Trade, previously told The National.

Updated: September 15, 2023, 6:35 PM