An Important Step Toward Strengthening Gulf-Asian Relations

  • 17 September 2008

Preparations that began on the 14th of September for a ministerial dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council and ASEAN is a significant step on the road to cementing Gulf-Asian relations that serve the GCC strategically and economically. First, ASEAN includes ten countries that have experienced comprehensive economic development that could be emulated by GCC countries, as well as Islamic nations, like Malaysia, that have been able to wed modernity to Islam. These countries can also be used as targets of investment in agriculture to ensure food security. Second, ASEAN is a huge human and economic bloc of 537 million living in a large and important geographic area whose exports in 2006 reached $758 billion and whose overall trade was $1.6 trillion.

Third, ASEAN is interested in developing bilateral and collective relations with GCC countries. Trade negotiations led a while ago to a free trade agreement between the GCC and Singapore and there are positive developments in relations between the former and other ASEAN countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Fourth, and because of ASEAN's experience in development and integration, it was able to achieve many partnerships with many important countries such as China, Japan, India, the United States, and the European Union. Mastering the mechanisms of such partnerships will be beneficial in ASEAN's relations with the GCC and from here comes the importance of the ministerial meeting being prepared between the two sides.

Asia forms an important security, strategic, and geographic depth for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council which show due interest with the continent's large powers such as China, India, and Japan. Developing relations with ASEAN is part and parcel of this effort.