Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have concluded the final round of negotiations and inked a preliminary deal on a free trade agreement (FTA) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, it emerged on Friday.
Pakistan and the GCC finalised the FTA on Thursday after the final round of talks was held from September 26-28, 2023 at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Commerce today.
Interim Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz and GCC Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi signed the joint statement.
“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,” the statement reads.
It will be followed by an internal administrative and approval process before the signing and entry into force of the agreement.
The GCC secretary general said the preliminary deal was a “recognition of the importance of strengthening trade relations and economic cooperation with countries and international blocs”, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
He noted that the “historic economic agreement” represented an “important turning point” in cooperation between the two sides and 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 said it was a “significant development” since the FTA is the GCC’s first with any country since 2009 and marks a milestone in both sides’ economic cooperation.
“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,” the commerce minister said.
Pakistan has been seeking an FTA with the GCC since at least 2005.
In January last year, the two sides finalised the Joint Action Plan for Strategic Dialogue (2022-26).
The plan, in line with a memorandum of understanding on strategic dialogue, provided for an institutional approach to deepen cooperation in various fields, including political, security, trade and investment, agricultural and food security, transportation, energy, environment, health, culture and education.