China, Gulf re­sume free trade talks

De­ci­sion re­flects im­por­tance re­gional bloc at­taches to Bei­jing, com­merce min­is­ter says

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By XING ZHI­GANG in Riyadh and LI XIAOKUN in Bei­jing

China and the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil have re­sumed frozen ne­go­ti­a­tions on their free trade agree­ment and will con­clude the pact later this year, both sides said on Wed­nes­day.

Ob­servers hailed the move, which will open an ex­tremely rich mar­ket for China, as a “big break­through” made dur­ing the visit by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to the Middle East.

Xi ar­rived in Riyadh, the Saudi cap­i­tal, on Tues­day at the start of the first visit to the coun­try by a Chi­nese head of state in seven years. He will also visit Egypt and Iran.

News of the break­through came af­ter Xi met with GCC Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ab­dul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani on Tues­day in Riyadh.

Xi told Zayani that China is will­ing to be a long-term, sta­ble and re­li­able en­ergy mar­ket for the bloc. Zayani said all GCC mem­bers ex­pect to raise the bloc’s ties with China to the level of “spe­cial strate­gic part­ner­ship”.

Com­merce Min­is­ter Gao Hucheng said on Wed­nes­day that the free trade agree­ment talks were restarted as the GCC’s talks with an­other 16 coun­tries re­main frozen, re­flect­ing the im­por­tance the re­gional bloc at­taches to Bei­jing.

Gao added, “We be­lieve this is an im­por­tant move for the GCC to fur­ther strengthen its strate­gic part­ner­ship with China, and also a key de­ci­sion to fur­ther im­prove China’s

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