Gulf Warns EU: Our Foreign Trade is Shifting to Asia

Riyadh – A prominent Gulf official warned the European Union (EU) that Europe’s share of Gulf continues’ foreign trade is declining, decreasing from 24 percent in 1992 to 11 percent last year — the Gulf foreign trade is shifting to Asia.

For 20 years, Gulf countries have been carrying out talks with the EU to sign a free-trade agreement between the two parties. But Europeans insist to include political topics in the negotiations’ program, which is rejected by the Gulf.

The GCC lately suspended trade negotiations with economic countries and blocs for the sake of re-evaluating the outcomes of these talks.

GCC’s Director of the Economic Administration at the General Secretariat Abdul Aziz al-Oaishek affirmed that the EU is still the first commercial partner for GCC with trade exchange worth more than USD183 billion.

Oaishek warned, however, that the share of EU from the Gulf foreign trade continues to decline.

“It declined from 24 percent in 1992 to 11 percent last year,” he said, adding that the majority of GCC states’ trade moved toward Asia.

Oaishek made his statement following the conclusion of the conference on “trade and economic relations between the EU and the GCC countries” in Brussels on Wednesday.

The conference was organized by European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade to discuss necessary mechanisms to increase trade and investment cooperation between the EU and GCC.

Oaishek expressed the GCC keenness to reinforce economic and commercial ties with the EU and he showcased the national transformation plans in the GCC – these plans seek to speed economic diversification and increase citizens’ and private sector contribution to the economy.

Chairperson of EPDAP Michele Alliot-Marie pointed out the need to achieve genuine partnerships between the European and Gulf in industrial development.

Issuances of GCC Public Debt Total 415 Bn Dollars

GCC

London – A report issued by the National Bank of Kuwait’s Studies and Research Unit confirmed a decline in yields on Gulf sovereign bonds in parallel with a decline in risks and a rise in oil prices.

Gulf Cooperation Council debt issuance picked up in the third quarter of 2017 as the typically slower summer season came to an end but activity remained predominantly in the public sector, the report said.

Total new issuance amounted to $24 billion compared to $21 billion in 2Q17. Private sector activity continued to weaken in 3Q17, with the share of sovereign issuances up to 94 percent. Total outstanding debt was up a healthy $20 billion, to rest at $415 billion, according to the report.

Sovereign activity was strong during 3Q17 with $23 billion in new issuances and the bulk coming from Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain tapped international markets for the second time this year with a $3 billion issuance.

Despite Bahrain having a rating below investment-grade by the three main rating agencies, the offering was well received and almost five times oversubscribed, reflecting the strong appetite and increased attractiveness of the regional debt market.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait issued domestic debt of $11 billion and $4 billion, respectively.

Following the sharp increase in the Credit Default Swap (CDS) rates on the back of Qatar’s dispute with its GCC neighbors, CDS rates for most of the tracked sovereign’s came off in 3Q17.

For the most part, the region’s risk profile benefited from the recovery in oil prices. CDS rates for Saudi Arabia and Qatar dropped the most, by 31 bps and 22 bps, respectively. As for the rest of the GCC, their rates were little changed.

GCC debt issuance is expected to remain healthy in 4Q17 as sovereigns continue to seek cheap deficit financing in favorable market conditions.

In early October, Saudi Arabia raised $12 billion in dollar-denominated debt almost a year after its debut international issuance. Abu Dhabi also just completed a $10 billion international offering.

GCC yields tracked international markets and closed the quarter slightly lower. The quarter saw a marked improvement in oil prices, which also helped GCC yields move lower.

Oil prices were up 25 percent in 3Q17, increasing the appeal of regional paper as fiscal concerns were alleviated. Most GCC sovereign yields were marginally down on the quarter.

Yields on GCC sovereign bonds dropped more notably following the sell-off seen in 2Q17.

On the international level, global and GCC debt markets yields traded in a narrow range in 3Q17 as central banks’ increased hawkishness and the improving economic outlook were countered by geo-political tensions, White House political challenges and stubbornly low inflation.

Issuance in the GCC picked up in 3Q17, but continued to be dominated by domestic sovereign issuance. Bahrain was the only country to issue internationally. GCC primary debt market activity is expected to stay healthy for the remainder of 2017.

International benchmark yields trended downward for most of the quarter as North Korea worries benefited safe haven assets.

Persistently low inflation in the major economies also continued to put a cap on yields. However, most yields ended the quarter slightly higher following a more hawkish tone by the unveiling of President Trump’s pro-business tax plan late in the quarter.

GCC-British Seminar on Strategic Partnership

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani during the seminar on the strategic partnership between GCC and UK

Riyadh– Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani confirmed that cooperation between Gulf countries and UK is not new, especially in security and defense.

Zayani pointed out that there are several plans that are being constantly updated to counter terrorism and fight Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.

The Sec-Gen stated that the cooperation is ongoing, which was reiterated during the summit held in Bahrain.

Zayani was speaking during the inauguration of a seminar on the strategic partnership between the GCC and the United Kingdom in the framework of efforts exerted by the Gulf and British sides to promote the outcomes of the GCC-British Summit which was held in Bahrain in December 2016.

The seminar was held at the Prince Saud al-Faisal Center for Conferences.

Zayani stressed that this forum aims at reviewing the achievements of GCC-British relations and cooperation. He added that during last year’s summit, Gulf countries and the UK agreed on forming a joint group to counter terrorism, secure borders, and enhance societies’ abilities to recover and stabilize.

They also agreed to increase joint military drills and training including maritime drills, border security, and establish stronger economic and trade relations.

The Sec-Gen reviewed the most important outcomes of the first summit between the GCC and the UK.

British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis confirmed that UK-Gulf friendship goes back ages, adding that trade between London and Gulf countries reached 30 million pounds over the past year.

The ambassador said that his country is adamant on establishing new partnerships while maintaining their old relations, stating that these partnerships will help the UK face all the challenges, establish security and stability.

Collis said that British Prime Minister Theresa May was clear when she said: “Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity. ”

When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat about the free trade negotiations with Gulf countries, Collis reported that this issue hadn’t been established officially. He explained that foreign trade is part of the European Commission, and it is impossible to discuss this matter before Brexit negotiations are over.

The ambassador confirmed that the relations with Gulf countries are not competitive but rather complementary. He added that there is a possibility to discuss and negotiate the general idea of free trade and he doesn’t expect to face any difficulties especially that the Gulf is the most important market following Europe and North America.

GCC, OIC Condemn Terrorist Attack in Bahrain

GCC, OIC Condemn Terrorist Attack in Bahrain

Manama- Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Chief Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani condemned Tuesday the terrorist bombing that was carried out on Monday at al-Budaiya Street in Bahrain and injured a number of security men.

Zayani expressed his full confidence in the ability of Bahrain’s security apparatuses to uncover the details of this terrorist crime and the parties behind it, arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

For his part, Secretary-General of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef bin Ahmed al-Othaimeen expressed solidarity with the government of Bahrain in its response to all acts of terrorism aimed at destabilizing its security and stability, terrorizing innocent civilians and damaging public property.

Othaimeen emphasized the OIC’s principled and firm position, which strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

An official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry condemned the terrorist bombing in the Bahraini capital of Manama.

The source confirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for the sister Kingdom of Bahrain against these acts of terrorism aimed at destabilizing its security and stability and intimidating its people.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz called his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa to express Saudi Arabia’s full support for Bahrain regarding all measures it takes to protect its security and stability.

Prince Abdulaziz stressed “full cooperation between the security services in the two countries, based on their cohesion and their common destiny.”

UAE, Kuwait, Egypt and Yemen also condemned the terrorist attack in Bahrain and stressed their solidarity with Bahrain in facing violence and terrorism, calling on the international community to unite in the face of this serious scourge that threatens the security and stability of the world.

Bahrain’s Shura Council has expressed its strong condemnation and denunciation of Monday’s terrorist bombing that targeted and injured five on-duty policemen on Budaiya Street, wishing them a speedy recovery.

The Council said such terrorist acts will never weaken the government’s resolve or willpower to take pre-emptive measures against terrorists and outlaws, strife-mongers and to continue the implementation of its strategies and plans in combating terrorism and drying up its sources.

The Council reaffirmed that Bahrain, as the state of law and institutions, “will neither tolerate anyone who seeks to undermine its national interests or the interest of its citizens and residents nor compromise with anyone who plots to commit such acts that threaten the security and stability of our beloved kingdom.”

It lauded the role of the security agencies and their keenness on the provision of security and protection all over the Kingdom’s regions as well as ensuring the safety of various religious sermons.

The Council also voiced its full confidence in the capabilities and efficiency of the security agencies and their capacity to identify and apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice.

GCC Chief Labels Bahrain Terrorist Bombing as ‘Cowardly’

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Chief Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani strongly condemned on Tuesday the terrorist bombing which tore through Al-Budaiya Street in Bahrain yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned news agency (SPA) reported.

The attack injured a number of security men on duty.

Al-Zayani expressed his strong condemnation, labeling the act as ‘cowardly’ and falls under terror-inspired violence, which is contrary to all moral and humanitarian values and principles.

He also expressed his full confidence in the ability of Bahrain’s interior ministry to uncover the details of this terrorist crime and the parties behind it, arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

He stressed that such despicable terrorist crimes aimed at destabilizing the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain will not affect the determination, cohesion and national unity of the people of Bahrain, wishing the injured security men a speedy recovery.

Gulf-Jordanian Economic Communication Forum Launches 120 Investment Opportunities

Jordan

Dammam, Amman – The Gulf-Jordanian Economic Communication forum concluded its activities on Saturday in Amman, Jordan with the launch of 120 investment opportunities.

Organized by the Federation of Chambers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (FCGCC) and the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, the forum set a roadmap for investment projects between the two parties to reach Gulf-Jordanian economic integration.

It also called for cooperation with the Ministry of Investment in Jordan to promote and introduce investment opportunities.

It recommended that Jordan and Iraq become members of the FCGCC. It also called for making use of investment and economic opportunities between the GCC and Jordan, especially in the vital sectors and preparation of joint studies between the FCGCC and the Jordan Chamber of Commerce.

The forum represented a main platform for cooperation between the Jordanian business community and its counterpart in the Arabian Gulf.

FGCCC First Deputy Chairman Abdulrahman al-Otaishan stated that organizing the forum falls under the gradual development in economic relations between federation states and Jordan in which trade exchange reached USD3.8 billion.

He added that the Saudi Vision 2030 represented a distinctive sign that would introduce radical changes in the Saudi economy.

Qatar’s Emir Disregards Reasons behind Crisis

New York- Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani renewed on Tuesday a call for “unconditional dialogue based on mutual respect for sovereignty” to end his country’s crisis. Yet he ignored the main reasons behind the crisis during his speech at the UN General Assembly.

He said that Qatar News Agency QNA was hacked for political purposes, which were followed by political dictations that have an impact on sovereignty. “I stand here while my country and my people are subjected to a continuing and unjust blockade imposed by neighboring countries,” added Sheikh Tamim.

Sheikh Tamim also expressed appreciation for the mediation of Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah as well as other states that upheld this mediation.

Qatar’s emir stressed his country is fighting terrorism, a matter that is noticeable by the international community, calling for a constructive dialogue among the GCC countries and Iran on the basis of common interests.

US President Donald Trump and Sheikh Tamim later held a meeting during which the emir requested his intervention, while Trump expected a solution to the crisis soon.

Qatari Opposition Conference: Return to the Gulf or International Isolation

London – The Qatari opposition held a conference in the British capital on Thursday to discuss the future of the country in the wake of the ongoing political crisis and the continuous support to terrorist organizations by the Qatari regime.

International experts, politicians and journalists, who participated in the conference, said that combating terrorism and maintaining the stability of the Gulf was a priority for the international community, stressing that Qatar should define its loyalties, and choose between returning to the Gulf and joining international efforts to combat terrorism or aligning with Iran and facing international isolation.

In his opening remarks, Qatari opposition spokesman in London, Khaled Al-Hail, said that the authorities in Qatar paid bribes and launched a media campaign in an attempt to stop the first conference of the Qatari opposition, which he considered a “turning point in the future” of the Arab peninsula.

He added that Qatari authorities have deprived many citizens of their nationality, and arrested many others, noting: “Change sought by the people of Qatar will not be filled with roses”.

Al-Hail stressed that the conference aimed to uncover the reality of the political situation in Qatar, and provide space for freedom of expression, in the wake of the “policy of silencing the mouths exercised by the Qatari system”.

On the relationship between Qatar and Iran, the Qatari opposition official said: “Iran’s danger to Qatar is greater than Qatar’s fears from the GCC.”

The conference program included five main themes: Doha’s role in spreading political Islam and supporting terrorism; the relationship between Qatar and Iran as a major source of regional instability; Qatar’s aspirations for global influence against democracy and human rights; Free media or the trumpet of terrorism; and, finally, economics, geopolitics and international energy security.

In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Dov Zakheim, former Undersecretary of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration, said: “The United States is capable of moving its military base from Qatar to one of the neighboring Gulf states or to Jordan if Doha maintains its current policy.”

“If the Qataris believe that the Iranians will eventually save them, they are making a big mistake,” he added.

“Doha wants to maintain good relations with its neighbors and Western allies, but at the same time it supports Al-Nusra, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which threaten the stability of the region and the United States,” Zakheim also said.

Bill Richardson, the ex-US energy secretary and ambassador to the UN in 1997-1998, said that the boycott imposed by Gulf states on Qatar was a “constructive pressure”.

Alan Mendoza, the head of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, questioned if the ruling emir’s actions were leading Qatar to “a tipping point”.

“How is it possible that Qatar is supporting Al-Nusra and other extremists? Qatar uses its economic power to silence it critics but we live in a world, which isn’t so easily constrained by what governments want us to do. Brave Qataris are speaking up,” he stated.

Saudi Arabia Says Implementation of Demands Vital for Solving Qatar Crisis

Saudi, Qatar

Jeddah- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, received in Jeddah on Sunday Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to the Saudi state-owned news agency (SPA). Bolstering bilateral ties and enhancing cooperation were discussed by the two, alongside regional and international developments.

The audience was attended by Minister of State and Cabinet Member Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the Special Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian Ambassador to the Kingdom Sergey Kozlov and a number of officials.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Lavrov, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said that Qatar needed to show seriousness in finding a solution to the crisis.

“We want clarity in the Qatari position, we want seriousness in finding a solution that leads to the implementation of principles which all countries support: no supporting terrorism, no welcoming unwanted guests, no spreading hate, no intervening in others’ affairs,” Jubeir said.

“We are interested in all those mediatory efforts that are currently being made producing results and the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) being restored,” he added.

Kuwait and the United States have been mediating to reach a breakthrough in the three-month long crisis that has put the whole region on edge and prompted Turkey to send troops to Qatar in a sign of support.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia suspended any dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of “distorting facts”, just after a report of a phone call between the leaders of both countries suggested a breakthrough in the Gulf dispute.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups.

Lavrov said Russia was in favor of dialogue to settle the dispute.

“We have confirmed our position (that we are) in favor of settling the disagreements by means of negotiations, by directly expressing concerns and achieving solutions which would take into account the concerns and the interests of all parties,” Lavrov told a news conference in Jeddah.

Russia is ready for cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the energy sphere in territories of both countries, said Lavrov.

“His Majesty the king [of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz] expressed satisfaction with our cooperation in the energy,” the Russian minister said. “This is exactly the estimation of the Russian leaders of the cooperation in this sphere.”

“Our economy operators are interested and ready for participation in joint projects with Riyadh in the energy, industry, agriculture and other promising sectors both in Russia and in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

GCC and Qatar’s Withdrawal

Brotherhood

This time former Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Abdullah Sehrabi spoke on behalf of the Qatari government, saying Qatar’s emir is willing to withdraw from the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Iranian official didn’t express a point of view or make an analysis but he conveyed a specific information.

While the Iranian information goes in tandem with the fierce attack of the Qatari media on the GCC, it seems that Doha wishes to add the council to its rivals’ list in the region or to – at least – sabotage this successful experience.

It is illogical to deny that the council is going through a real crisis as a result of a founding member’s decision to distance itself from the main purposes for which the council was established in Abu Dhabi on May 25, 1981.

However, the regime in Doha missed the fact that the GCC is stronger than any failure. Doha can withdraw or suspend its membership – it can replace Turkey and Iran with its interests in the council – but it can’t prevent other states from implementing its successful project. Neither the region nor the world are in a condition that would tolerate the collapse of a rare and successful experience in the Arab world.

It should be recalled that the council throughout history – almost four decades – has gone through dangerous political crises, mainly the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, then the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

Fortunately, these two dangerous crises occurred before the coup led by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa against his father. That’s why the council managed to confront them in as much solidarity as possible. Had Hamad bin Khalifa been the emir at the time, then, the council’s internal crisis would have been much worse than the external one.

It is normal that during Qatar’s current crisis, Doha would use any means to exploit the council’s unity to help itself out of the crisis. If we consider the keenness expressed by several capitals, including Washington, Paris, London and Berlin, on GCC’s continuity, then Doha’s opportunism won’t be surprising since this is part of its strategy.

Actually, it would be a surprise if Qatar acted otherwise and distanced the council from the current crisis although Doha is the one that has struck the mortal blow due to the announced and discreet violations of its authorities during the past years in the aim of causing rifts internally, inciting the violation of state sovereignty and hosting terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabalize the region.

All eyes are on the GCC annual summit to be hosted by Kuwait in December. In my opinion, if the crisis continues along with Qatar’s intransigence then it is better to postpone it. This way the continuity of the council would be preserved.

The council will be stronger when Qatar returns to be a Gulf country of equal rights and duties.

If Doha is hinting on withdrawing from the council then this is its decision. But the decision of the council’s continuity isn’t linked to it. The dispute with Qatar didn’t and won’t affect the Gulf countries’ interests and their moving forward whether with or without Qatar.