About The Event

Welcome to the 7th EU-GCC Business Forum! Industry leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs and visionaries who are committed to forging a dynamic economic alliance between the European Union and the Member States of the Gulf Cooperation Council will meet on 21 November 2023 in Manama, Bahrain. As we navigate the uncertainties and opportunities of the post-pandemic world, this forum emerges as an essential platform for dialogue, partnership, and shared growth.

The EU and the GCC are at a critical juncture towards a more sustainable and diversified economy.  With the GCC region’s GDP expected to show a notable rise and the EU being its 2nd largest trade partner, and first investment partner, the prospects for collaborative economic growth are excellent. In 2022 alone, EU-GCC trade in goods reached a staggering €175.2 billion. There is a lot of potential if we harness our collective strengths in innovation, renewable energy, and the digital economy.

This year’s theme, "Redefining Economies - Building a Sustainable and Diversified Future" encapsulates the vision we hold: a future where cooperation and innovation spur a harmonious blend of economic growth, social prosperity, and environmental responsibility.

Join us in shaping that future. Your contribution could be the spark that ignites a new era of EU-GCC economic partnership.

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Event Background

The European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been strategic partners for several years. With a shared interest in fostering economic growth, trade, and investment, the two regions have developed a strong economic relationship. The EU is one of the largest trading partners of the GCC, while the GCC is a significant market for EU exports, particularly in the energy sector. 
In recent years, both the EU and GCC have recognized the importance of economic diversification in ensuring long-term sustainable growth. Economic diversification involves shifting away from a reliance on a single sector or commodity and developing new sources of growth and innovation. Both regions have set out ambitious plans to diversify their economies, with a focus on creating new industries and investing in sectors such as strengthening energy security, renewable energy, digital trade, and transitioning to a green, sustainable climate-neutral economy, technology, and tourism. 
  • According to the World Bank, the GCC’s region GDP grew by 7.3% in 2022 and it is expected to grow by 2.5% in 2023 and 3.2% in 2024. 
  • The EU is the 2nd biggest trade partner in goods of the GCC (after China, 17.8%), representing 11.3% of the GCC’s total trade in goods with the world in 2022. 
  • EU-GCC total trade in goods in in 2022 amounted to €175.2 billion, an increase of 54% from €113.5 billion the previous year. In 2022, the EU’s imports reached €87.8 billion and EU’s exports totalled €87.4 billion.

The 7th EU-GCC Business Forum comes at a crucial time for both regions as they seek to redefine their economies post pandemic and build a sustainable and diversified future. The theme of the forum, "Redefining Economies - Building a Sustainable and Diversified Future," highlights the need for continued cooperation and collaboration between the EU and GCC in achieving these goals. 
The forum will provide a platform for policymakers, business leaders, and experts to share their experiences, best practices, and insights on economic diversification. It will also facilitate dialogue and partnerships between EU and GCC businesses, promoting trade and investment opportunities and exploring potential areas of collaboration. 
The forum will cover various topics, including: 
  • The role of innovation and technology in driving economic diversification 
  • Opportunities for energy investment and cooperation with regard to energy security, including renewable energy 
  • The potential of the digital economy and e-commerce to drive growth 
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in diversified economies 

Policy Areas

Sustainable Energy, Resource Diversification, and Energy Security
In the nexus of sustainable growth lies the vision for diversified and secure energy sourcing. This policy area encompasses renewables, gas, LNG, and an exploration of varied energy supply routes. Grounded in the EU-GCC context, it will foster discussions around innovative strategies, investment opportunities, and mutual collaborations, ensuring a resilient energy sector for both regions.

Circular Economy, Sustainable Mobility, and Green Logistics
Embracing sustainable resource management through the circular economy framework stands at the forefront of environmental responsibility. This policy segment dives deep into reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency, with a spotlight on the manufacturing, construction, and energy sectors. Furthermore, it addresses the innovations in sustainable transport — from the aviation industry's sustainable fuel technologies to electrifying transport fleets and establishing intelligent transport systems. Here, best practices, challenges, and success stories from both the EU and GCC contexts converge, paving the way for a greener future. 

Economic Inclusion: Women's Empowerment and Sustainable Trade
At the heart of inclusive economic growth lies the empowerment of women and their robust participation in trade. This policy focus highlights the challenges and opportunities for women in the economic domain, be it in entrepreneurship, leadership roles, or the broader workforce. Rooted in the shared experiences from both EU and GCC, discussions will revolve around innovative strategies, best practices, and success stories that emphasize the pivotal role of women in achieving sustainable development.

Overall Objectives of the Business Forum

Increased trade and investment opportunities: The forum provides a platform for EU and GCC businesses to explore potential areas of collaboration and partnership, which can lead to increased trade and investment opportunities for both regions. 
Access to new markets and industries: Through partnerships and collaborations, EU businesses can gain access to new markets and industries in the GCC region, while GCC businesses can access the EU market. 
Knowledge sharing and best practices: The forum provides an opportunity for policymakers, business leaders, and experts from both regions to share their experiences, best practices, and insights on economic diversification, innovation, and sustainable development. 
Expansion of green economy The GCC has set ambitious targets for the green economy, including renewable energy, financial services, health, logistics/transport, ICT, construction, etc. providing opportunities for EU businesses to invest and participate in these sectors. 
Encouragement of SMEs and entrepreneurship: The forum aims to encourage entrepreneurship and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in both regions, providing opportunities for EU and GCC businesses to collaborate and support each other. 



Panel Session 1. Sustainable Energy Mix & Energy Security: Strategies for Energizing Economic Diversification