Current portal location

Current portal location

Website content

Countries and regions

Gulf region

Gulf region

The EU is negotiating a free trade agreement with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE). Negotiations were suspended by the GCC in 2008. Informal contacts between negotiators have taken place to test whether a basis can nonetheless be found to conclude negotiations, but so far without success.

Trade picture

Gulf Cooperation Council:

  • Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
  • EU-GCC total trade in goods in 2013 amounted to around €152 billion (i.e. a very significant increase from €100,6 billion in 2010). The GCC accounts for 4,4% of total EU trade and is a significant market for EU exports (5,5%).
  • The EU was the first trading partner for the GCC in 2012 covering 12,8% of its total trade, followed by Japan (12,7%), India (11,5%) and China (11,3%).
  • EU-GCC trade grew by 5,8% on average between 2008 and 2013, it fell by 25,2% in 2009 and it recovered in 2010 to 2008 levels. Since 2010, it has been steadily growing (+51,0% in 3 years).
  • In 2013, EU exports to the GCC Region consisted mainly of manufactured products (78%, of which 44,6% of machinery and transport equipment and 11 % of chemicals) and agriculture and raw material (8,7%), while EU imports from the GCC Region consisted mainly of fuels, and mining products (78,2%) and chemicals products (10,1%).
  • The Gulf Cooperation Council countries account for 4.2% of total EU trade and are a significant export market for the EU, currently the fifth largest worldwide.
  • Meanwhile, the EU is the first trading partner for the Gulf countries covering 11% of their total trade in goods. EU-GCC total trade in goods amounted to €145 billion in 2012, a significant increase from €100 billion in 2010.
  • EU exports to Gulf Cooperation Council are diverse but focused on manufactured products (83.2%) such as power generation plants, railway locomotives and aircraft as well as electrical machinery and mechanical appliances. Machinery and transport equipment (47.9%) and chemicals (11.8%) were the main categories of products exported in 2012.
  • EU imports from Gulf Cooperation Council are mainly fuel and mining products (82.4% of total EU imports from the region in 2012).
  • Bilateral trade in Services amounted to €36.7 billion in 2011. EU services exports are roughly twice as much (€24.3 billion) as those of the GCC (€12.4 billion).

EU-Gulf Cooperation "trade in goods" statistics

Trade in goods 2011-2013, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2011 57.4 73.0 15.6
2012 61.2 83.7 22.5
2013 57.0 95.1 38.1

More statistics on Gulf Cooperation Council

EU and the Gulf region

The EU-Gulf Cooperation Council negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement seek the progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade in goods and services. They aim to ensure a comparable level of market access opportunities, taking into account the countries' level of development.

A future EU-Gulf Cooperation Council agreement has been subject to a public sustainability impact assessment.

The current framework for economic and political cooperation is the 1988 EU-GCC cooperation agreement that seeks to improve trade relations and stability in a strategic part of Europe's neighbourhood.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries are all classified as high-income economies by the World Bank and accordingly does not benefit from preferential access to the EU market under the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme from January 2014 (for more details on the EU's new GSP scheme, see here).

Trading with the Gulf region