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EU to lose if free trade talks with Gulf states fail: UAE

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(ABU DHABI) - The European Union stands to lose if free trade talks with the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council are not completed, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates said Wednesday.

Talks were suspended in December 2008 because the EU was insisting on including a chapter on human rights in the agreement and some Gulf countries, notably Saudi Arabia, wanted to retain customs duties on certain items.

"The EU is the most important trade partner of the GCC but those negotiations have taken 22 years. Time is not playing in favour of the EU and it will lose if we fail to reach an agreement," said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan in a conference in Abu Dhabi.

"Gulf countries will turn towards other groups like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and countries like India, China and Japan," added the minister, whose country presides over the current term of the coalition.

Besides the UAE and Saudi Arabia the other GCC members are Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

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