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13 Mär 2023

Seb Whale and Sefan Boscia, POLITICO

UAE minister advises UK: stay silent on human rights to strike trade deals

Vinnikava Viktoryia, Shutterstock

'Stay silent on human rights to strike deals, Gulf states tell UK', 13 March 2023

"Shut up about human rights if you want to make deals in the Middle East. That's the warning from a gulf state minister ahead of trade negotiations due to begin Monday, as Britain seeks to deepen economic ties in the region.

In an interview with POLITICO, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Trade Minister Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi said the U.K. and other Western countries must “separate politics from trade and the economy.” The warning follows critical reporting on human rights abuses in the region during December's World Cup in Qatar. British ministers are in talks with the UAE and the five other Middle Eastern countries which make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) trade bloc about a potential trade deal, as the U.K. seeks new partners in the wake of its departure from the European Union.

Speaking to POLITICO in London, Al Zeyoudi said the U.K. must “tone down” standard human and workers’ rights provisions in trade deals “if they want more market access and more business opportunities.”...

... But trade unions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have said that starting trade and investment talks with the GCC should have been unthinkable.

Rosa Crawford, policy officer at the Trades Union Congress, said: "The government should not be giving legitimacy to those countries by starting trade talks ... it is giving them a gloss and a veneer of respectability. "The U.K. government shouldn't be negotiating trade deals on this race to the bottom model."

Qatar has been widely condemned for exploiting migrant workers to build World Cup stadiums — thousands died in unsafe work conditions — and is currently at the center of an EU bribery scandal...."