Australia and GCC sign MoU

Australia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations on the sidelines of the 118th GCC Ministerial Council meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Australia was represented at the First Joint Ministerial Meeting on GCC-Australia Strategic Dialogue by Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, and the GCC group was headed by the UAE Foreign Minsiter and chair of the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the presence of the outgoing GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah.

The official Emirates News Agency (WAM) says “Sheikh Abdullah stressed the importance of strategic dialogue with Australia as a key country that maintains strong political and economic ties with the GCC countries”.

In a joint statement signed at the end of the meeting, the two sides said the MoU is an undertaking to further strategic dialogue between the sides.

A statement from the Australian Foreign Affairs Ministry elaborates, saying “Australia and the GCC welcomed the growth in relations and cooperation in the political, economic, education and other fields.”

“The two sides shared important and growing economic and strategic interests and people to people links, reinforced by hundreds of thousands of Australians of Arab descent who have made an important contribution to Australian society, tens of thousands of Australians living in GCC countries, and thousands of GCC nationals studying in Australia.”

The MoU details a commitment to holding annual meetings between Foreign Ministers with a focus on enhancing friendly relations; boosting trade and investment links; and to finalise discussions on a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the GCC.

Rudd hopes for quick successes in GCC FTA negotiations

As he prepared for a round of talks today in Abu Dhabi, the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, was hoping for speedy resolutions on the question of a free trade agreement with Gulf nations.

A statement released by Mr Rudd’s office said he will “push for an early conclusion of the FTA when he meets with his Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts at the inaugural Australia-GCC Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue in Abu Dhabi later today.”

The Minister’s office recognises the importance of the Gulf trading bloc to Australia saying “the GCC FTA would help to consolidate other important trade and investment ties between Australia and the Gulf.”

“Merchandise trade between Australia and the GCC countries amounted to A$8.7 billion in 2010, and there are growing investment and services links that could benefit from the conclusion of the FTA.”

Mr Rudd will meet with GCC Foreign Ministers following the 118th session of the GCC Ministerial Council, held yesterday in the UAE capital, under the chairmanship of His Highness, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister.

Earlier today in Abu Dhabi, Mr Rudd was received by the Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, according to the Bahrain News Agency.