GCC, UK Agree to Proceed with Free Trade Agreement This Year

Albudaiwi meets with UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds in London. (SPA)
Albudaiwi meets with UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds in London. (SPA)
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GCC, UK Agree to Proceed with Free Trade Agreement This Year

Albudaiwi meets with UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds in London. (SPA)
Albudaiwi meets with UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds in London. (SPA)

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi said on Wednesday the GCC and United Kingdom are in agreement over the importance of proceeding towards finalizing negotiations for a free-trade agreement (FTA).

He added that the two parties will sign the agreement this year.

Albudaiwi met in London with UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds.

Albudaiwi said he sensed a strong interest from the new British government and a sincere desire to complete the negotiation rounds for the FTA. Reynolds expressed the desire to have the agreement signed before the end of 2024.

The officials discussed various topics of mutual interest, focusing on economic and trade relations between the GCC and the UK, and ways to boost and develop them.

Both sides aspired to accelerate the pace of FTA negotiations and hold regular meetings between senior officials to finalize its chapters and sign it this year. This is seen as a step to bolster cooperation and the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK.



New Legislation Facilitates Investment in Saudi Tourism Sector

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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New Legislation Facilitates Investment in Saudi Tourism Sector

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib said, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, that work is underway on new regulations and legislation that will facilitate the investment process in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is witnessing a major transformation in the tourism sector after it enacted and developed a number of regulations and launched mega projects that allowed the country to attract more than 100 million visitors last year, the target initially set for 2030.
During a press conference on Wednesday at the Abu Faraj heritage palaces in Al-Aziza, west of the city of Abha in the southern Aseer region, Al-Khatib revealed the ministry’s moves to provide appropriate long-term funding at a competitive cost in order to encourage investment in the Saudi tourism system.
In his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the minister pointed to the most prominent achievements in the sector, revealing that the Kingdom received 60 million visitors during the first half of 2024, with spending amounting to SAR 143 billion ($38.1 billion), recording about 10 percent growth in the number of tourists and spending.
He added that by the end of the first half of this year, the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product had reached 5 percent, and was moving steadily toward achieving 10 percent, which is equivalent to SAR 600-700 billion of tourism income.
Moreover, Al-Khatib also spoke about the launch of the Bachelor of International Hospitality Management program, a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism, King Khalid University, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
He noted that a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ministry of Tourism and the Colleges of Excellence Company, with the aim of developing human capabilities and expanding international specialized technical colleges and strategic partnership institutes in the field of tourism and hospitality.
Al-Khateeb said 10,000 training opportunities both inside and outside the Kingdom would be allocated to those working in the Aseer region’s tourism sector.
The National Tourism Strategy aims to reach over 150 million local and international tourists by 2030. In 2023, it reached 109 million.
The minister added: “The Tourism Development Fund plays an important role in providing financing, allocating SAR 7.4 billion to enable over 100 tourism projects around the Kingdom with a value exceeding SAR 35 billion.”
He pointed out that the fund financed 10 major projects in the Aseer region, ranging from international hotels to multi-use projects with a value exceeding one billion riyals. International hotel brands included: InterContinental Residence in Abha, DoubleTree in Khamis Mushait Governorate, and Khayal Walk Boulevard.