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04ABUDHABI467 2004-02-24 13:49:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Abu Dhabi
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1. (U) This is an action request; please see paragraph 3.

2. (SBU) The GCC Secretariat's proposal to initiate
region-wide free trade negotiations with the United States
(ref A) has put UAE officials in the uncomfortable
political position of having to support the GCC 'party
line,' while at the same time, vigorously pursuing a
bilateral TIFA and FTA agreement with Washington. In a
February 17 meeting with Econoff, UAE Director of WTO
Affairs Saeed Al-Nasibi asked whether Washington had
responded to the GCC proposal, and noted that a negative
response from Washington could "put to rest once and for
all" the possibility of negotiating an FTA with the GCC.

3. (SBU) Comment and action request: Although some UAEG
interlocutors have voiced restrained support for the GCC
proposal (most probably out of a sense of obligation to
their Gulf brethren), senior officials have made it very
clear that the UAE intends to pursue bilateral trade
agreements with Washington (ref B). They have said that
GCC talks, which include Saudi Arabia, would "bog down"
negotiations. The UAEG would welcome, however,
clarification of our preference to pursue bilateral
agreements with the Gulf states vice a multilateral
approach to the GCC. We second Embassy Riyadh's request
that Washington expeditiously provide a response to the GCC
Secretariat's proposal, and provide talking points for use

in the Gulf capitals, as well. End comment and action