The European Union, which has acceded to GCC demands over concessions on rules of origin, has asked for reciprocal compensatory concessions on what it termed the 'investment climate' and greater access to the services sector.
After the meeting, Peter Mandelson and Shaikha Lubna, spoke to reporters and expressed a strong political will from both sides to finalise a trade deal. Peter Mandelson expressed hope that an agreement could be reached between the GCC and EU by the end of this year.
Mandelson said the EU is showing more flexibility on rules of origin and looks forward to speeding up the discussion.
"We are approaching the final stages of negotiations and I hope they will end in success," he said, adding that negotiating teams from both sides will soon meet in Brussels to settle the remaining issues.
"The coming weeks are very crucial in resolving the differences at a technical level," he opined.
Mandelson avoided divulging the details of differences while Shaikha Lubna said 'they vary'.
"Lets make no mistake about the importance of diversifying GCC economies as 70 per cent of GCC exports to the EU are oil and energy-related," Mandelson said.
He emphasised that the EU attaches great importance to completing the negotiations with the GCC, as free trade will contribute to increasing the trade between the two trading blocs.
The EU Trade Commissioner said with the signing of this agreement, the GCC economic bloc would have an access to European market.
"It will also make exports to GCC countries more competitive, as exchange rate depreciates, a major incentive for diversification," he added. He said Gulf consumers would also benefit from low prices of EU made vehicles, chemical products, light machinery etc.
As an outcome of this agreement, he estimated that GCC nations would benefit $5 billion in the first year.
Shaikha Lubna said both sides have the political will to conclude the agreement this year and the meeting reflects genuine commitment on both sides. She added that the GCC should work harder on finalising the agreement with EU.
Shaikha Lubna said GCC nations have been preparing to meet the requirements for WTO plus regime.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Peter Mandelson said the European Union has asked the GCC to open their markets further to EU companies if they are to conclude the 15- year-old talks."I'm concerned about the cap on ownership of business here," he said. "You don't want to bring a business here and find you can only own 49 per cent of it," he added.
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