BRUSSELS, Aug 25 (KUNA) -- The European Union's Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan expressed his strong desire to strengthen trade and political relations between the 27-member European bloc and the 6-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
"I am a very strong believer in improving the EU and Gulf relationships and my track-record shows I have backed my convictions with actions including my time as an EU Commission for agriculture," Hogan told a webinar on Tuesday.
"I think we can do a lot more together," he said.
Hogan, an Irish politician, welcomed the large number of people who were listening to this webinar saying it shows that there is a lot of interest from the Gulf region and EU for a stronger and close relationship between our two regions.
The webinar titled "Trends and Opportunities in EU-GCC Trade Relations," was organised by the Brussels-based think tank Bussola Institute.
Hogan noted that the EU-GCC partnership goes back to more than 30 years with the signing of the cooperation agreement in the 1988.
"The relationship between the EU and GCC have been gaining significantly economic as well as political cooperation," stressed Hogan.
Our trade, he noted, flows have gone strongly over the last 30 years and particularly in the last decade have doubled.
The Gulf region is the eight trading partner of the EU, he said and called for the resumption of the stalled EU-GCC Free Trade Agreement negotiations.
"We should get round the table and resume our negotiations. We are working towards that objective at the moment," he said.
The EU trade chief said that two-way trade in goods between the two sides amounted to 121 billion euro (USD 142 billion) in 2019. That does not include services and foreign direct investments.
"From the point of view of the trade commissioner of the EU I am very committed to strengthening the trade relations we have and advancing them further," he stressed and urged for closer cooperation between the two regional blocs to overcome the difficulties and challenges due to the current coronavirus pandemic.
He noted that the majority of GCC countries have refrained from imposing unnecessary trade restrictions to deal with the coronavirus impact.
He pointed out that the EU and the GCC have set up a region to region economic dialogue in 2018 to boost trade and economic relations.
The EU supports the GCC diversification strategies, he said, and called for more workshops and seminars to strengthen the trade and economic relations between the two regional groups.
The EU is also supporting GCC economic integration within itself , he said noting that this is a complex and challenging process but is vital.
"We are there if any guidance and help is needed for this process," he said.
"I hope that in the coming months we can conclude a free trade agreement between us and we are anxious to do that," he added.
The six-member GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. (end)