The UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council have kicked off the first round of trade talks in Riyadh in a deal that could cover more than £33bn in annual trade.
The GCC, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, would be equivalent to the UK’s seventh-largest export market, with demand for international products and services in the region expected to rise to £800bn by 2035.
The deal itself is expected to be worth around £1.6bn a year to the UK economy.
These latest talks follow similar discussions with Canada and Mexico earlier this year.
UK international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, commented on the kick-off of trade negotiations that: “Today marks the next significant milestone in our 5-star year of trade as we step up the UK’s close relationship with the Gulf.
“Our current trading relationship was worth £33.1 billion in the last year alone. From our fantastic British food and drink to our outstanding financial services, I’m excited to open up new markets for UK businesses large and small, and supporting the more than ten thousand SMEs already exporting to the region.
“This trade deal has the potential to support jobs from Dover to Doha, growing our economy at home, building vital green industries and supplying innovative services to the Gulf.”
Key winners from any trade deal would include British farmers and producers, whilst tariffs on items such as chocolate, baking products, biscuits and smoked salmon could all be cut.
A trade agreement would also open up the door to more inward investment from the Gulf into the UK, with investments from the region already supporting around 25,000 jobs in the UK alone.