China, Gulf resume free trade talks
Decision reflects importance regional bloc attaches to Beijing, commerce minister says
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