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com­pre­hen­sive co­op­er­a­tion with the GCC.”

Li Guofu, head of the Middle East Depart­ment at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said the agree­ment, once signed, will open up to China a mar­ket of six rich coun­tries, which mainly rely on im­ports.

The GCC is a political and eco­nomic union of six Gulf Arab states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates.

Li said, “Chi­nese goods will be very com­pet­i­tive there, and will be trans­ferred to neigh­bor­ing re­gions through the bloc.”

Li Shaox­ian, a se­nior ex­pert in Middle East stud­ies at Ningxia Univer­sity in Yinchuan, the Ningxia Hui au­ton­o­mous re­gion, said, “I ex­pected Pres­i­dent Xi’s visit to push for­ward the FTA talks, but I didn’t dare to hope they would restart im­me­di­ately. ... It’s a big sur­prise.”

A news re­lease is­sued by the Min­istry of Com­merce and the GCC Sec­re­tar­iat on Wed­nes­day said the Chi­nese govern­ment and the GCC “re­sumed ne­go­ti­a­tions on Jan 16 and sub­stan­tively con­cluded in prin­ci­ple the ne­go­ti­a­tions on trade in goods on Jan 19”.

China and the GCC have de­cided to “ac­cel­er­ate the pace of ne­go­ti­a­tions” and hold the next round in the se­cond half of Fe­bru­ary.

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