The UK economy could achieve growth of up to £1.6bn per year through a trade deal with the six Bay Stations. Negotiations on such an agreement began today with a meeting in Saudi Arabia.
Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will meet representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh to begin negotiations on a deal with the bloc.
Trade between the UK and the GCC – which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – is already worth £33.1 billion, making it the UK’s seventh largest trading partner, and the bloc’s international trade partner. Demand for goods and services is expected to grow by 35 percent over the next 13 years.
Trevelyan said: “This trade deal has the potential to support jobs from Dover to Doha, grow our economy at home, build critical green industries, and supply innovative services for growth.”
But Paul Novak, deputy secretary general of the Trades Union Congress, warned against the move because of the Gulf countries’ “horrific” record of human rights.
The UK is expected to cut tariffs on British exports to the Gulf, particularly in the food and beverage sector. UK food and beverage exports to GCC countries were valued at £625 million in 2021.
important role for hi-tech
The government will also seek to improve access to high-tech industries, including green technology, to help the GCC transition away from reliance on fossil fuels.
This could include reducing tariffs by 15 percent on UK wind turbine parts to help the UAE reach its goal of producing 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050.
Stephen Fipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ association Make UK, said: “We welcome the start of free trade talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council, strengthening trade opportunities that will ensure that British manufactures goods and services in the future.” Benefit from the positive flow of the Gulf region.
“It is also extremely helpful that the UK and the GCC are on committee to work towards exploring opportunities from ‘green innovation’, which will bring significant opportunities to UK innovative renewable energy companies that are already in this area of global concern. I’m moving forward.”
gender equality not a priority
But unlike recent trade deals with New Zealand and Australia, the UK is not expected to pursue agreements on advancing gender equality as part of its negotiations with the GCC, instead raising human rights issues in other ways. .
Negotiations will also look to increase investment opportunities between the UK and the Gulf, with GCC investments in the UK supporting over 25,000 jobs in 2019 and the new deal expected to boost local economies in the North and Midlands.
For the services sector, UK negotiators will seek to improve transparency and consistency of regulation, which has previously been a key point especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
Sanjay Agarwal, co-founder of Spice Kitchen, a small Liverpool-based exporter, said: “Associating with GCC is very important for our business 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 United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
But Nowak said the government should not “entertain” a deal.
“The gulf states’ horrific record on human rights and workers’ rights is no secret. And yet the government is ramping up trade talks, no questions asked,” he said.
“Ministers should not enter into any agreement with the Gulf countries.”
Paul Novak, deputy general secretary of the Trades Union Congress
“Bannings on trade unions, forced labour, severe exploitation of migrant workers and other labor rights abuses are all pervasive – as are attacks on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and the oppression of marginalized communities.
“From time to time, ministers have turned a blind eye to fundamental rights violations to secure trade agreements.
“Enough is enough. The UK government must use its leverage on the global stage to ensure respect for fundamental workers and human rights.
“And we need ministers to initiate meaningful consultations with trade unions during trade talks – this is the only way trade deals will work for workers in the UK and globally.”