East Asian Foreign Policies and the Gulf
In this sample, we will discuss the East Asian foreign policies and the gulf countries.
The past two decades have seen growing and substantive ties between the Arab Gulf states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Asia. Those ties have been mainly economic and include significant two-way investment as well as trade. There are emerging signs of security cooperation, although what the eventual outline will be is unclear.
In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the UAE take the lead in these exchanges, followed by Qatar. The first two account for the majority of GCC exports to Asia. But while oil and gas make up three-quarters of Saudi exports and 87 percent of Qatar’s exports, these products amount to just under half of the UAE’s exports.
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Gulf Countries relations with Asian Countries
Advanced economies like North America and Europe have long been the largest markets in absolute dollar terms for the GCC. But in relative terms that have been in decline, dropping from 60 percent to 41 percent of GCC exports between 2000 and 2018, compared to a relative rise in emerging and developing Asian markets, from 19 percent to 28 percent. GCC trade with China and India has grown by five and four times respectively over the same period, to $139 billion and $77 billion, followed by Japan with $65 billion.
Gulf trade with Asia is largely state-based. Founded in 1981 and one of the oldest surviving regional organizations in the Middle East, the GCC has struggled to integrate along the lines of the European Union.
Such a climate makes the likelihood of a free trade agreement between Asian countries and the GCC all but dead. The exception to this is Singapore, which along with the European Free Trade Area (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), account for the only two FTAs with the GCC. Although talks took place between the GCC and China and India before 2017, they broke down because the Asian giants want to maintain tariffs on petrochemical products.
Besides trade, investment has been a growing feature of Gulf-Asian connectivity. The Saudi Public Investment Fund has broadened its domestic investments to include overseas ones, including a $45 billion investment in a high-tech fund managed by Japan’s SoftBank. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has invested in property in Singapore and Shanghai as well as India’s agrochemicals company, UPL Corp. Meanwhile, the Qatar Investment Authority has provided liquidity to finance construction ahead of the 2022 World Cup as well as countering the costs of the Saudi/Emirati blockade.
India’s relations with West Asia
With the advent of the new millennium, there has been an extraordinary turnaround in the relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) countries and India.
Collectively, the G.C.C. countries have become India’s preeminent oil and gas supplier and leading trade partner. Indians are the largest expatriate group in each of the six G.C.C. countries. 3,050,000 Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia constituting the largest number of Indian passport holders abroad, followed by 2,800,000 in the U.A.E.
Underlining his special fondness for Israel, Prime Minister Modi’s first meeting with a West Asian leader was with Prime Minister Netanyahu during the annual U.N. Modi is likely to visit Israel, which has become India’s third-largest supplier of military equipment, later this year. India’s flourishing relationship with Israel has not damaged its relations with other West Asian countries; on the contrary, the scale and scope of these relationships have been expanding.
China great game in the Middle East
China’s relationship with the Middle East revolves around energy demand and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013. In 2015 China officially became the biggest global importer of crude oil, with almost half of its supply coming from the Middle East. The centrality of economic cooperation and development to China’s engagement with Middle Eastern countries is reflected in two key Chinese government documents, the 2016 “Arab Policy Paper” and the 2015 “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”. The cooperation framework outlined in these documents focuses on the energy, infrastructure construction, trade, and investment in the Middle East. China has a vision of a multipolar order in the Middle East based on non-interference in, and partnerships with, other states – one in which the country will promote stability through “developmental peace” rather than the Western notion of “democratic peace”.
Covid and Gulf Foreign Policy
In late February 2020, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman announced the first cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst their citizens who had returned from pilgrimages to Iran. In a region accustomed to operating in a state of high alert, policymakers responded swiftly to the growing spread of the pandemic by shuttering flights, ordering the closure of land borders, and enacting sweeping economic stimulus packages.
Besides, they moved to capitalize on it in their foreign policies. Since the outbreak of the virus, it has used the opportunity it afforded to continue its policy of de-escalation with its main regional rival, Iran, by extending humanitarian medical aid. By engaging in bilateral humanitarian diplomacy, some Gulf states deftly used the crisis to advance their foreign policy objectives with federations with which they have had adversarial relationships.
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