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Pakistan, GCC sign preliminary free trade agreement

October 1, 2023 at 8:56 am

A general view of the 43rd Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit at King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia – Anadolu Agency]

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Pakistan have signed a preliminary deal on a free trade agreement (FTA), as both seek to boost trade and ties with one another.

According to a press release issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce, the Interim Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz and GCC Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi concluded the final round of negotiations on Thursday at the GCC headquarters in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh,

In a joint statement by Ejaz and Albudaiwi, they stated that “Both parties looked forward to the expeditious signing, ratification, and implementation of the agreement, which will mark a new chapter in the economic relations between our parties”.

Pakistan has been seeking an FTA with the GCC since at least 2005, and that aim was finally recognised since January last year, when Islamabad and the bloc finalised the Joint Action Plan for Strategic Dialogue (2022-26) and proceeded with the talks.

Making Pakistan relevant amidst changing dynamics in the Gulf

According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the GCC secretary general stressed that the preliminary deal was a “recognition of the importance of strengthening trade relations and economic cooperation with countries and international blocs”.

He added that “historic economic agreement” represents an “important turning point” in cooperation between both sides and that it would contribute to growth and prosperity in a way that “serves the common interests of both sides, as it emphasises the vital importance of close cooperation between countries to strengthen economic relations”.

Ejaz also called it a “significant development”, especially as the FTA is the first one struck by the GCC with any country since 2009. “We have excellent relations with all the countries of the GCC, and this FTA will ensure that our economic ties are commensurate with these excellent relations”, Ejaz said.

The agreement comes at a time when Pakistan is undergoing unprecedented financial crises, exacerbated by numerous other issues such as crippling energy shortages and an increase in terror attacks. Free trade with a bloc and market such as the GCC is expected to provide Islamabad with an opportunity to boost its economy and market prospects.

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