Free trade negotiations between the UK and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are “progressing well” and will enhance the flow of goods, the UAE’s ambassador to the United Kingdom said. 

“I am really encouraged by what could be achieved by deepening our trade links with the UK,” Mansoor Abulhoul told Bloomberg Television in an interview Tuesday. 

Once concluded, a deal between the UK and the Gulf Arab bloc could increase trade by at least 16%, according to UK government estimates. The last round of talks took place in London in July with further negotiations expected later this year.  

Total trade between the UK and the Gulf exceeded $74.7 billion last year. Taken together, GCC countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were the UK’s seventh-largest export market, according to the UK government’s projections. The UK has been working to conclude trade agreements with partners around the world since Britons voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. 

But the Gulf’s top trade partners are located to the east. Last year, China and India were the UAE’s two largest trade partners with flows totaling nearly $190 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Abulhoul said burgeoning ties with Asia would not come at the expense of “very mature relations with the US and Europe where we have deep security and investment ties.” 

“When you think of our trade with India and China, these are our two top trading partners, something we can’t really ignore and something we welcome,” Abulhoul said. “This is about building prosperity links and bridges and we very much see multi-lateralism as the way forward.”