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Thu 27 Jun 2019 03:55 PM

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UK eyeing free trade deals with Gulf countries after Brexit - Liam Fox

Secretary of State for International Trade hails trade relations between the GCC and the UK

UK eyeing free trade deals with Gulf countries after Brexit - Liam Fox
Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The UK will explore the possibility of free trade agreements with individual countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after leaving the European Union, a senior British government official said on Thursday.

Speaking to state news agency WAM, Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, said: "The question of whether bilateral trade agreements [with individual countries are possible] is something we want to explore after we have left the EU."

He said that the UK is not allowed to negotiate any FTAs until it leaves the EU, adding that the UK-GCC trade relations are strong as the UK exports to the region and investments from the region to the UK have increased in recent years.

According to the UK Department of International Trade, UK exports more to the GCC countries than China, with trade between the UAE and the UK alone reaching GBP16.3 billion in the second quarter of 2018.

Fox also said the UK does not want political tensions between the US and Iran to worsen.

He said: "One of my ministerial colleagues was in Iran this week. We want to find a way to de-escalate the tension before the matters worsen from where they are today."

He added: "I think it is the best way forward for the regional security, and the economic stability."

Earlier on Thursday, Fox attended a ground-breaking ceremony as construction started on the UK Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

Speaking on the occasion, Fox said: "As the first major international moment after we leave the EU, Expo 2020 Dubai will mark the UK becoming a truly independent trading nation.

"The Expo provides a global platform to showcase our ambition for the future, and our participation provides excellent opportunities for UK businesses that have already won major contracts."