BRUSSELS: Trade and investment have steadily grown between the 27- member European Union and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since the 1988 Cooperation Agreement between the two sides, according to Kuwait’s ambassador to Belgium, the EU and NATO, Jasem Al-Budaiwi. “Despite the dual challenges of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic the recovery is now blazing ahead and set to only increase to even greater levels” he said at an event organized by the Arab-Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (ABLCC) on Wednesday.
Al-Budaiwi was the guest speaker at a lunch-conference hosted by the ABLCC on the topic “Belgium and EU Investment Opportunities in Kuwait and the GCC: My 6 years-experience”. He noted that from a trade and investment point of view, the six GCC countries, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, represent an important region to the EU and together are the Union’s 10th largest trading partner.
The EU is the GCC’s second biggest trading partner, he noted and stressed, “There is so much potential, so much room for further growth and investment.” “The GCC States have clearly demonstrated their courage and trust by continuing to invest in European companies and projects,” said the Kuwaiti ambassador, but lamented that “European companies hesitate when deciding to invest in Kuwait and other GCC countries for a number of reasons, many of which are unjustified.”
“It is time to ramp up the confidence building and ensure that the future growth of investment and trade between the GCC and the EU is not one sided,” he said. Al-Budaiwi urged for new collaborative projects between the two regional blocks to tackle global challenges such as , digitization, green energy, Artificial Intelligence, food security, healthcare and education Many of the GCC countries, Kuwait included, have grand plans for the future through a number of groundbreaking initiatives that offer big opportunities for European companies.
He also announced that the economic partnership between Kuwait and Belgium would witness a major boost in the near future as a proposal, submitted by the Belgian side and currently being studied by the Kuwaiti authorities, is in the works. Al-Budaiwi drew attention to two recent important developments that will lead to further strengthening of EU-GCC ties. Last week, the EU released a document entitled the “Joint Communication on a Strategic Partnership with the Gulf” which covers trade, investment, security, political energy, tourism, and many other topics.
The European Commission recently proposed to lift Schengen visa requirement for nationals of Kuwait and Qatar. “Hopefully this announcement will be closely followed by the remaining GCC countries obtaining a similar proposal. This is a game changer,” he added. On his part, Qaisar Hijazin, ABLCC secretary-general, in his introductory remarks said the cooperation between the Chamber and Arab embassies in Brussels played an important role in boosting contacts between the business communities from both sides.
“Indeed our chamber acts as a bridge between the business communities to develop economic and trade ties and cooperation between both sides,” he said. He estimated that Arab-EU trade exchanges were worth 290 billion euros (USD 309 billion) annually. EU and Belgian diplomats, Arab Ambassadors and diplomats accredited in Brussels, representatives of Belgian and European companies and think-tanks attended the lunch. – KUNA