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UK plans trade talks with Gulf Cooperation Council

After Brexit, the British are looking around the world for free trade agreements
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As soon as the Brexit option was put on the table, the first reactions from the European Union were that it would be disastrous economically for both parties. Years after the start of unproductive negotiations, the United Kingdom managed to leave the EU, which has forced Boris Johnson's party to look for new options in the international market. It is not that everything that the Union represented for the British has vanished, but they will not have all the advantages, far from it. That is why they have been quick to turn their attention to the booming Gulf market.

The UK's Department for International Trade aims to strengthen its trade links with the Gulf countries. This has been made clear in an official communiqué in which they inform of their intentions to open negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council at the beginning of 2022. The value of British trade with the countries of the Gulf region has increased significantly to over 60 billion dollars - just under 52 billion euros - which represents 7% of the UK's trade volume with the European Union.

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PHOTO/BANDAR ALGALOUD/Courtesy of the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

One of the key figures with whom Boris Johnson would like to strengthen ties is the increasingly influential Saudi Arabia. Its economic might goes hand in hand with its desire for progress and innovation, as reflected in the ambitious Vision 2030 project. Add to this the recent purchase by a Saudi fund of Newcastle United, hitherto owned by billionaire Mike Ashley. The deal - closely scrutinised by the Premier League, which says it has legal guarantees that the team will not be run from Riyadh - may be part of a move to bring the two countries closer together.

Saudi Arabia's expansion at all levels is a reality that puts it in a very advantageous position when it comes to signing deals, as well as making it a lucrative partner that the UK has been quick to approach. The negotiations scheduled to begin next year will not be the only ones on the table for Boris Johnson. In the aftermath of the AUKUS earthquake, the British prime minister wants to further strengthen ties with Australia and intends to join the Comprehensive and Advanced Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as signing a new free trade agreement with Canberra and Wellington.

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The UK wants to - and must - show its economic strength after the fall of a large part of its exports due to Brexit. The new international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, says that the possibility of signing an agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council is a "tremendous opportunity to liberalise trade with a growing market for British companies and deepen relations with a region vital to our strategic interests". The British would be interested in strengthening mainly three sectors: food, digital and renewable energy.

Exiting the European Union is a highly complex challenge for the British. However, the speed with which they are moving to reach agreements in different areas - from defence with AUKUS to the economy with Australia itself and now the GCC - is key to mitigating the consequences of the application of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The UK is aware of the growing influence of the Gulf states around the world and does not want to miss the opportunity to strengthen ties that could eventually place it at the forefront of economic growth.