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Gulf region

Gulf region

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 were the EU’s fourth largest export market in 2016. 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 and environment as well as research.

A more structured informal EU-GCC dialogue on Trade and Investment was launched in May 2017.

Trade picture

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

  • The EU is the 2nd biggest trade partner of the GCC (right after China,15.8%), representing 12.3% of the GCC’s total trade in goods with the world in 2020. 17.8% of the GCC’s imports came from the EU in 2020. The EU thus ranked as the GCC’s number one import partner. In 2020, the EU was the 4th biggest export partner of the GCC as 6.9% of the GCC’s exports went to the EU.
  • EU-GCC total trade in goods in 2020 amounted to €97.1 billion. The EU’s imports were worth €29.6 billion and they were led by fuel and mining products (€18.6 billion, 62.8%) as well as chemicals (€3.4, 11.5%). The EU’s exports totalled €67.5 billion and were dominated by machinery and transport equipment (€26.7 billion, 39.6%), chemicals (10.4 billion, 15.4%) and agriculture and raw materials (€8.9 billion, 13.2%).
  • Two-way trade in services between the EU and the GCC in 2019 amounted to €51.7 billion, with EU’s imports of services representing €18.0 billion and exports €33.7 billion.

EU-GCC: Trade in goods

Trade in goods 2018-2020, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2018 47.1 74.1 27.0
2019 43.3 78.0 34.7
2020 29.6 67.5 37.9

Unless otherwise mentioned “EU” concerns for all indicated years the current European Union of 27 Member States.

Date of retrieval: 12/04/2021

More statistics on Gulf Cooperation Council

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 Co-operation Committee which meet annually.

The two sides meet on an annual basis to discuss trade, amongst other topics, within the EU-GCC Joint Co-operation Committee held in Riyadh or Brussels.

In May 2017, the EU and GCC launched a dedicated Dialogue on Trade and Investment issues, also with the participation of their respective private sectors. This Dialogue provides a dedicated platform to tackle trade and investment related issues and enhance cooperation on matters of mutual interest such as market access irritants, regulatory requirements and ways to encourage greater two-way trade and investment flows.

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).

More details on the EU's new GSP scheme.

Trading with the Gulf region