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UK launches free trade negotiations with Gulf

The UK has begun trade negotiations with six Gulf nations in the hope of opening up opportunities for the manufacturing sector, including food and drink and the renewable energy supply chain.

The negotiations have been launched with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is 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 per cent increase, according to the Department for International Trade (DIT).

A UK-GCC trade deal could have significant benefits for UK food and drink exporters through the reduction or removal of import tariffs. Tariffs are currently in place for items such as cereals (up to 25 per cent), chocolate (up to 15 per cent), baking products (up to 12 per cent) and sweet biscuits (up to 10 per cent).

One food and drink manufacturer in the North West aiming to export to the region is Spice Kitchen in Liverpool. Co-Founder and Director Sanjay Aggarwal said:

“We went to [Dubai exhibition centre] 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.”

Other sectors expected to benefit from a deal include manufacturers in the renewable energy supply chain. Stephen Phipson, CEO of manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, commented:

“We welcome the launch of free trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, strengthening trade opportunities which will ensure that British manufacturing benefits from future positive flows of goods and services into the Gulf region.

“It is also extremely helpful that the UK and GCC are committed to work towards seeking the opportunities from ‘green innovation’, which will bring significant opportunities for Britain’s innovative renewable energy companies. We look forward to working with government to make sure manufacturers large and small are able to benefit from the business possibilities this deal will open up.”

The talks are the fourth major set of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations launched by the UK this year, with negotiations already underway in India, Canada and Mexico.

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