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China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met on January 17, 2014 to draw up an action plan on cooperation from 2014 to 2017 and agreed to accelerate negotiations on a free-trade agreement (FTA).
Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a meeting with a GCC delegation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing: "Negotiations on the China-GCC free trade agreement have been in the works for a decade. Both sides have done extensive planning for the agreement." After the meeting he issued a statement in which he said "I hope both sides can sign the agreement at an early date."
Last year the GCC, a political and economic bloc made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, accounted for 70 percent of China's trade with the 22-member League of Arab States. Trade between China and the GCC surged from USD9bn in 2001 to USD151bn in 2012.
China and the GCC began talks on an FTA in 2004 but, after five rounds of negotiations and two panel meetings, the talks stalled in 2009.
Apart from the FTA, the action plan negotiated by China and the GCC outlines goals for cooperation in politics, trade, energy, environmental protection and climate, culture, education, health and sports.
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