Foreign ministers from the Gulf monarchies will meet their European Union (EU) counterparts in Bahrain on April 23 hoping to thrash out a free trade agreement, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said Tuesday, April 17.
The GCC, which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has long pushed for the trade deal.
The bloc is critical of high taxes levied by the EU on its refined oil products and Gulf aluminum, as well as a massive two-way trade balance in favor of Europe, which hit $18 billion in 1998.
But even if an agreement can be reached it will not be implemented before the GCC launches a Gulf-wide customs union, which is scheduled for 2005. The Gulf states have pledged to work to unify tariffs ahead of schedule.
A GCC official said the ministers would also cover "the dangerous developments which have happened in the region and the possibility of Europe playing a more active role to give impetus to the Middle East peace process."
"The situation in the Gulf region, Iraq and Iran will also be on the agenda," the official added. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )