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GCC and Japan resume free trade deal talks  

GCC Japan free trade Oman News Agency
Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi meets his Omani counterpart Sayyid Badr Albusaidi at the joint ministerial meeting between the GCC and Japan held in Riyadh

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have restarted talks on a free trade pact with Japan, an Omani minister has confirmed.

“We announced today the resumption of talks on the signing and reaching an agreement to free trade between Japan and the GCC countries,” Oman’s foreign minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi told a press conference this week.

His Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi, who was on a visit to the Middle East, was also present.

Albusaidi added that the pact will have a direct positive impact on both sides.

During a trip to the region last month, Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida met GCC secretary general Jasem Mohamed Al Budaiwi and agreed to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement.

Japan is aiming to strengthen relations with oil producers in the Middle East to ensure a stable energy supply. It relies on the GCC states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – for over 90 percent of its crude oil.

A Japanese foreign ministry spokesperson in July said there was no timeline set for the deal’s conclusion.   

Trade between Japan and the GCC members stood at around $80 billion in 2021, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE making up around 80 percent of the total.

The relationship is growing rapidly, with Japan’s trade with the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone topping $100 billion in 2022.

“Oil underpins much of GCC-Japan trade,” Freddie Neve, senior Middle East associate at think tank Asia House, said last month. “But Japan is increasingly interested in the opportunities emerging from the Gulf’s development of alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen.”

The UAE has the largest number of Japanese expatriates in the Middle East at 4,500 and hosts about 340 Japanese companies.