GCC, Japan to resume free trade deal talks -Omani minister

By Aziz El Yaakoubi

RIYADH (Reuters) -Gulf Cooperation Council countries will resume talks on a free trade pact with Japan, Oman’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs told a press conference with his Japanese counterpart on Thursday.

The move is part of a fresh push between the six-member GCC bloc and Japan to boost economic, commercial and political relations following Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the Gulf region in July.

“We announced today the resumption of talks on the signing and reaching an agreement to free trade between Japan and the GCC countries…, which will have a direct positive impact on both sides,” Sayyid Badr Albusaidi said.

Trade talks between the GCC – a regional union of oil and gas rich nations comprising Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain – and Japan were suspended back in 2009.

A spokesperson for the Japanese foreign ministry said in July there was no set target year to complete negotiations.

Few GCC free trade deals have been signed and negotiations, such as talks with China which began in 2004, can languish for years as the Gulf bloc navigates competing internal priorities and simmering political feuds.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; writing by Rachna Uppal; editing by Alison Williams and Mark Heinrich)