China, GCC vow to reach comprehensive FTA within 2016

Riyadh, Jan 20 (IANS) China and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) are committed to working closely to conclude a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) within 2016, the two sides announced.

In a joint press release, the Chinese ministry of commerce and the GCC Secretariat said the two sides resumed their FTA talks on Sunday and “substantively concluded in principle the negotiations on trade in goods” on Tuesday.

The two sides said they have decided to accelerate the negotiation process and hold the next round of talks in the second half of February.

The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Riyadh for the first state visit to Saudi Arabia by a Chinese head of state in seven years.

During Xi’s talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Tuesday, the two leaders welcomed the restart of the China-GCC FTA talks, saying they were “delighted” to see the substantive progress that has been made.

They also agreed to establish the FTA as soon as possible.

China and the GCC, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, began their FTA talks in July 2004, and the process was suspended in 2009.

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