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Trade Minister Tim Groser today welcomed the news that negotiations on the New Zealand - Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have been successfully concluded following six rounds of negotiations.
Mr Groser says the FTA is a significant achievement for New Zealand and secures new and improved access into some of our most important Middle East markets.
"While there has been a real focus on the Asia Pacific region of late, this FTA will provide a strong platform for export growth into a region that is likely to emerge strongly from the global recession."
"Exports to GCC - made up of Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar - totalled NZ$1.3 billion in the year to June 2009, an increase of 218% since 2000. The group now ranks as our seventh largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $3.85 billion.
"The agreement with the GCC offers valuable commercial advantages to New Zealand businesses leading to a stronger and more diversified presence in both the GCC states and the wider Middle East," Mr Groser said.
While New Zealand's major exports to the region are dominated by primary sector products such as dairy, sheep meat, and wood there is increasingly a strong interest in critical services areas such as ICT, education, environmental and professional services.
Officials must now complete the legal verification process before details of the FTA are able to be made public and put before Ministers for signature. It is likely that the agreement will be signed in the first half of 2010.