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The EU and the GCC have been negotiating a Free Trade Agreement for 20 years. Why haven’t they agreed on anything?
December 29, 2008 12:27 by Dana El Baltaji
The EU and GCC nations have been negotiating what would’ve been the world’s first region-to-region Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for 20 years. And in spite of all the talking and the compromising, the negotiations have produced nothing.
What’s the problem?
According to GCC’s Secretary General Abdurrahman bin Hamad al-Attiyah, the EU wants to impose high taxes on the Gulf’s exports. The secretary general also criticized the EU for wanting to negotiate “unrelated” issues such as human rights policies and political reforms in the agreement: “They want to include an article saying that, in case a member of the agreement violates principles of human rights and democracy, the other side can take necessary actions according to international law,” he said to Reuters.
“We all respect human rights but it should not be imposed on us by the view of others,” he added.
The GCC feels that if it accepts the EU’s requirements for human rights and democracy, that local laws and the region’s sovereignty may be compromised: “We want to also include that domestic laws and regulations should not be weakened by this agreement.”
The GCC was expecting the agreement to be finalized at the end of November, during a visit by the French President Nickolas Sarkozy’s to Qatar. However, “the European side surprised us by raising new questions or by mixing politics, commerce and trade,” said al-Attiya. And EU retracted its decision at the last minute, stalling the negotiations further.
The GCC has stalled talks until “the European side agrees to sign the (most recent) draft accord,” says al-Attiya. As far as the GCC is concerned, it feels it has already compromised on numerous points, although officials will not reveal what they have compromised on. The Gulf has suspending talks until the EU is ready to negotiate.