ABU DHABI- Negotiations between the UK and the GCC to sign a free trade agreement are advanced and should reach a conclusion, at a governmental level, in a "relatively short time," a British lawmaker told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
Liam Fox, a member of the British Parliament, who previously served as UK’s Secretary of State for Defense and Secretary of State for International Trade, said that negotiations with the GCC are "quite far advanced" and should reach an agreement "within relative touching distance."
"The GCC is one of the biggest trading partners already with the UK. But if we can look at ways of reducing any barriers to trade, whether that’s in goods or services, that of course is another step towards the liberalisation and the opening of the global trade that we all want to see," Fox explained on the sidelines of his visit to the UAE, leading a delegation from the UK Abraham Accords Group.
Giving a timeframe for when the overall agreement could be reached is almost "impossible to say," as it has a parliamentary process to go through as well, Fox said.
"Getting an agreement between the governments is only a part of it. Britain [has not passed] its own legislation on trade for a very long time, since before we joined the European Union, so we are kind of feeling our own way through these parliamentary processes," he continued.
"What’s key to that is there is a willingness on both sides to do it and that very often is the most important determinant of the timescale." "Britain’s trade with Europe went back to pre-Brexit levels about May or June , but trade with the rest of the world remains disrupted because the global supply chains are disrupted. I think it would be sometime in 2022 before we can assess what global trade looks like," Fox said.
The British lawmaker also called on global players to take a joint action on removing any impediments to trade to get the global economy moving. "We frankly need the big economies to open up to ensure that developing countries and smaller economies are able to trade freely with the world’s biggest markets." On his visit to the UAE, along with other British MPs, Fox said that despite the pandemic, things seem to be moving quite quickly already.
The visit aimed to see first-hand the impact Abraham Accords is making on trade and industry, religious and cultural cooperation.
"There is a tremendous support across politics and business for the Abraham Accords. I was particularly impressed when we’ve signed an MoU with Sharaka. The interest of the young people is the most represented and for them, this is the chance to look forward and realise that it is not just about reading history, it is about writing history," Fox explained.
Sharaka, which means "partnership" in Arabic, is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation founded by young leaders from Israel and the Gulf to turn the vision of people-to-people peace into a reality and encourage citizen diplomacy.
"The Abraham Accords is a truly historic moment. It’s a way to open a new window in the region to see the problems in a different context. The bottom line is that this project is too important to allow it to fail," he said.
According to the UK's Department of International Trade, the UAE is the UK’s 25th largest trading partner globally, with ?10.7 billion in bilateral trade in the year ending March 2021.
© Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2022.