The signing of a trade agreement between Britain and the six Gulf states, which could boost the UK economy by up to 6 1.6 billion a year, will begin with a meeting in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Trade Secretary Anne Marie Trevlin will meet with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh to begin negotiations on an agreement with the bloc.
Trade between the UK and GCC – which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – is already valued at £ 33.1 billion, making it the UK’s seventh largest trading partner, and The block is in demand for international goods and services. It is expected to grow by 35% in the next 13 years.
Ms Trevlin said: “This trade agreement has the potential to support jobs from Dover to Doha, grow our economy at home, and provide innovative services for the construction and development of key green industries.”
But Paul Novak, deputy general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, warned against the move because of the “terrible” human rights record in the Gulf states.
The UK is expected to implement tariff cuts on British exports to the Gulf, especially in the food and beverage sector. In 2021, UK food exports to GCC countries amounted to £ 625 million.
The government will work to improve access to high-tech industries, including green technology, to help the GCC avoid reliance on fossil fuels.
This could include a 15% reduction in tariffs on UK wind turbine parts to help the UAE reach its target of 50% power generation from renewable sources by 2050.
Stephen Fipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ association MacUK, said: “We welcome the launch of free trade talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which will strengthen trade opportunities and ensure the future of the British manufacturing industry. Benefit from the positive flow of goods and services in the Gulf region.
“It is also very helpful that the UK and the GCC have committees working to find opportunities through Green Innovation, which will provide significant opportunities for UK renewable energy companies that are already of global concern.” Moving forward in this area. “
But unlike recent trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia, the UK is not expected to adhere to agreements promoting gender equality as part of negotiations with the GCC, rather than He raised human rights issues in other ways.
The talks will also consider expanding investment opportunities between the UK and the Gulf, GCC investment in the UK will support more than 25,000 jobs in 2019 and the new agreement is expected to boost local economies in the North and Midlands. Is.
For the services sector, UK negotiators will work to improve transparency and consistency of regulation, which has previously been a key point, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
Sanjay Agarwal, co-founder of Spice Kitchen, a small exporter based in Liverpool, said: We never thought.
“We are in the process of identifying retailers in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
But Mr Novak said the government should not “entertain” any agreement.
“The terrible record of the Gulf states regarding human rights and workers’ rights is no secret. And yet the government is rushing into trade talks, no questions asked,” he said.
Ministers should not deal with the Gulf states.
“Trade union bans, forced labor, severe exploitation of migrant workers and other violations of workers’ rights are all widespread – such as attacks on women’s rights, LGBTQ + rights and oppression of underprivileged communities.
“Over and over again, ministers have turned a blind eye to fundamental rights violations in an effort to secure trade agreements.
“Enough is enough. The UK government must take advantage of the situation to ensure respect for basic rights and human rights in the world.
“And we need ministers to start meaningful consultations with trade unions during trade negotiations – this is the only way trade agreements will work for UK and global workers.”