About the Australia-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement negotiations
Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, commenced in July 2007. These negotiations were preceded by bilateral FTA negotiations with the UAE, which were abandoned following a decision by GCC Ministers to only negotiate FTAs as a group. To date, there have been four rounds of GCC-Australia FTA negotiations, with the last one held in June 2009.
Australia and the GCC share a significant economic relationship, encompassing trade and investment across a broad range of goods and services. For example, the GCC is an important market for exports of live animals and other agricultural and food products. There are further opportunities in mineral commodities, automotive parts and services (particularly education, engineering and construction).
The GCC has a rapidly growing middle class and a youthful population giving the GCC strong prospects for continued economic growth. Large hydrocarbon reserves also contribute significantly to government revenues. These factors, along with a plurilateral FTA, will help sustain growth in Australia's trade and investment relations with the region.
The last negotiating round, held in Muscat, Oman focused on services, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, competition policy, rules of origin as well as legal and institutional issues.
In March 2014, the GCC Ministerial Council agreed FTA negotiations could once again proceed, but made no announcement on which countries negotiations would resume. In January 2016, the GCC announced commencement of FTA negotiations with China. Negotiations with other potential FTA partners, including Australia, are still under consideration. The Australian Government is advocating strongly for a resumption of the Australia-GCC FTA negotiations.
No progress is expected on an FTA with the GCC while the intra-Gulf tensions which commenced in June 2017 remain unresolved.
Key interests and benefits
- The GCC is a key market for agricultural exports such as livestock, meat, dairy products, vegetables, sugar, wheat and other grains. The agreement provides an opportunity to address a range of tariff and non-tariff barriers related to our food exports.
- A GCC FTA would provide an opportunity to reduce barriers to trade in mineral commodities and automotive parts.
- The negotiations can address market access barriers related to the provision of services, including in the areas of construction, engineering, architecture, health care, hospitality, education and financial services.
- Provisions on investment would both encourage inward investment from the GCC, as well as enhancing security for Australian investments in GCC countries themselves, including in such areas as mining or the development of educational campuses.