UK-GCC Negotiations Towards FTA Update, followed by ABCC Summer Reception


On 19 July 2022, the ABCC held a business briefing on the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to update members on the progress of talks and what businesses can expect as an outcome following the formal launch of the talks in Riyadh last month.

The briefing in the chamber’s auditorium was attended by ABCC members in person along with many more watching online. The event provided members with an update on the progress made since the briefing on the topic that the Chamber held on 19 May.

Returning was the UK’s Chief Negotiator for the UK-GCC FTA Negotiations, Mr Tom Wintle, who this time participated via video link and his colleague Mr Ben Parfitt, Communications and Engagement Lead, at the Department for International Trade, who joined the discussion in person.

Welcoming the guests, Mr Bandar Reda, ABCC Secretary General & CEO, stated that the Chamber was also honoured by the participation of H E Mr Zayed R Al Zayani, Bahrain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, who gave the GCC’s perspective on the prospects for the talks.

The Rt Hon Baroness Symons, ABCC Chairman, stated that both the UK and GCC wished to see stronger bilateral relations irrespective of who became the next Prime Minister in the UK.

Mr Abdeslam El Idrissi, ABCC Deputy CEO & Secretary General, chaired the discussion, and reminded the meeting of the many positive responses from British trade groups representing different sectors who were looking forward to the FTA.

His Excellency Mr Zayed R Al Zayani informed the meeting that the GCC had established a dedicated team for the talks, and he expressed the hope for achieving a successful conclusion by August 2023. The Minister envisaged no major obstacles lying in the way largely because of the complimentary nature of the economies, the familiarity with each other’s business regulations and the shared interests in reaching a positive outcome.

For the UK, the DIT speakers confirmed that the UK Government wanted to proceed “at pace” and was optimistic about achieving a “modern, comprehensive and ambitious” agreement which would create new opportunities for exporters and investors across a range of sectors.

The meeting heard that talks would formally proceed during the summer months and would be held in hybrid format both in London and the Gulf region thereafter.

Speakers anticipated that the FTA would open up real opportunities for SMEs on both sides with the prospect of building closer business-to-business links.

The ABCC pledged to continue holding briefings on the FTA as the talks moved forward.

The briefing held on 19 May took place in the chamber’s boardroom the presence of H R H Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the UK.

During that briefing, Mr Wintle had stressed the complementary nature of the UK and GCC economies and outlined the exciting opportunities to be grasped in areas like green energy, innovation and digital sectors which were being driven forward by the vision plans of the GCC.

The 19 July briefing was immediately followed by the ABCC’s summer reception, an annual social gathering in the ABCC calendar that tends to be extremely popular with our members.