• China and several Gulf countries have agreed to continue free trade talks.

China and several Gulf countries have agreed to continue free trade talks. (Photo : Twitter)

In an effort to promote closer ties, China and several nations in the Middle East announced that they are speeding up free trade agreement talks between the two regions.

The development was announced through a statement released during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. According to the statement, both China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have decided to resume stalled negotiations and are committed to coming up with a conclusive deal within the year, Mail Online reported.

Like Us on Facebook

China began initial free trade talks with the six-country organization, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, in 2004.

According to Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Huncheng, the two sides have already come into an agreement in 2009, allowing both markets access to almost 97 percent of goods under the agreement.

However, the GCC eventually suspended the talks that year, along with FTA negotiations with 16 other countries.

Nevertheless, trade between China and the Gulf countries have reportedly grown significantly in the last few years. Trade between the country and Saudi Arabia alone hit $64.1 billion in 2014. With the resumption of talks, Gao said that the two parties intend to meet each other halfway and come to an agreement by the end of the year.

Experts have said that the deal will likely be beneficial to both sides, Sputnik News reported.

According to London School of Economics and Political Science Kuwait Programmer researcher Courtney Freer, the deal will give China access to inexpensive fuel. It would also open the doors for Chinese goods to flow into the Gulf region.

On the other hand, Freer said that the FTA would open a new channel for the Gulf's oil and gas exports. She noted that China has become an important market for Gulf oil ever since the United States started tapping into its own shale oil deposits. China is projected to consume as much as 18 million barrels of oil per day by 2035.