Countries and regions
The six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) represent an important region from a trade point of view and the EU’s fourth largest export market as of 2015.
The GCC countries have formed their own customs union and are working towards the goal of completing an internal market. There is an ongoing cooperation between the EU and GCC on trade and investment issues, macro-economic matters, climate change, energy, environment as well as research.
Gulf Cooperation Council
- EU-GCC total trade in goods in 2015 amounted to €155.5 billion, which ranks the GCC as the fifth top trading partner of the EU. The GCC also became the EU’s fourth most important export market with goods exports of €111.6 billion, while imports accounted for €44 billion, generating a significant trade surplus for the EU.
- EU-GCC trade has been steadily growing between 2008 and 2015 by around 6,5% per year on average: it increased by 55.5% between 2010 and 2015.
- In 2015 EU exports to Gulf Cooperation Council countries were diverse but focused on industrial products (91.4%) such as power generation plants, railway locomotives and aircrafts as well as electrical machinery and mechanical appliances. Machinery and transport equipment (49.1%) and chemicals (11.2%) were the main categories of products exported in 2015.
- EU imports from Gulf Cooperation Council countries are mainly mineral fuels and mining products (68.9%) and chemicals 11.4%.
- The EU was the first trading partner for the GCC in 2015 covering 14.7% of its total trade, followed by China (13.0%), Japan (11.5%) and India (10.4%).
- Bilateral trade in Services has also been increasing and amounted to €47.8 billion in 2014 compared to €36.5 billion in 2010. EU services exports are roughly twice as much (€32 billion) as those of the GCC (€15.8 billion).
EU-Gulf Region "trade in goods" statistics
|Year||EU imports||EU exports||Balance|
EU-Gulf Cooperation Council trade negotiations
The EU and Gulf Cooperation Council launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1990. The FTA is foreseen to provide for a progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade in goods and services. The negotiations have faced several challenges and were effectively suspended in 2008, when the GCC countries suspended all ongoing negotiations in which they were involved.
While periodic informal contacts have taken place since then to test whether a basis can nonetheless be found to resume and conclude negotiations, these have not been successful. In parallel with the negotiations, the prospective EU-GCC FTA was subject to a sustainability impact assessment.
EU and the Gulf region – bilateral trade
The framework for economic and political cooperation between the EU and the GCC countries is provided by the 1988 EU-GCC cooperation agreement that seeks to improve trade relations and stability in a strategic part of Europe's neighbourhood. The agreement created a Joint Council and a Joint Cooperation Committee which meet annually.
The two sides meet on an annual basis to discuss trade, amongst other topics, within the EU-GCC Joint Cooperation Committee held in Riyadh or Brussels.
In April 2016, the EU-GCC Joint Cooperation Committee agreed to establish a more structured informal dialogue on Trade and Investment. This will provide scope to tackle trade and investment related issues or explore matters of common interest in more detail, within a dedicated working-level framework. The first meeting of this Dialogue is under preparation and is expected to be held in the coming months.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries are all classified as high-income economies by the World Bank and accordingly do not benefit from preferential access to the EU market under the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP).
Trading with the Gulf region
- The EU is present on the ground in the region (Delegations in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates)
- Trade relations are part of the EU's overall political and economic relations with the region
- Gulf Cooperation Council
- Sustainability impact assessment for EU and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) Trade Negotiations