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Signs of Growing GCC Unity

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Angus Taverner

Director- Global Affairs

Tag: Dubai GCC UAE
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HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum as Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, led his countrys delegation to the recent GCC summit in Riyadh.  Of the many issues on the GCCs agenda not least was the rumbling threat of contagion from the recent upheavals in the Eurozone, mounting concerns over Iran, and the continuing threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  All these issues the delegates seemed to view alike in important measure.  However, one main challenge, closer to home, gives an impression of disunity among the six member states:  continuing repercussions of the UAEs withdrawal last year from the common currency project for reasons which, themselves, are in dispute. 
Yet, the current state of the GCC is not tied solely to the fate of the common currency project.   Indeed,  a renewed sense of unity is developing in the face of a number of mutual challenges.  This gives a number of grounds for optimism.
First, the GCCs continued development of a customs union or common market since 2008 has encouraged a tripling of commerce among member states since 2002.  Moreover, a recent survey by NCB Capital Research suggests that this trend will grow at an annual rate of around 20%.  Second, plans are now being put in placefeasibility studies contracts let--to develop common infrastructure projects including a GCC-wide road and rail network.  Observers agree that the Gulf is well-suited to these types of geographic initiatives.  Moreover, the initial implementation of an integrated power grid across the upper Gulf demonstrates that these ideas are no idle whimsy.  International gas pipelines are also extending important new arms. 
So while Sheikh Mohammed may face pressure from his fellow Gulf leaders for the UAE to rejoin the project for a single currency, he may also reflect that the GCC shows substantial signs of unity.  The schism that media commentaries say the UAEs withdrawal last year wrought may have had only tempest in a teapot impact that will calm easily later.
Given the broader economic and security challenges and opportunities that the Gulf states together face, disunity would seem a luxury that the GCC members can ill afford.  

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