BEIJING China will speed up free trade talks with six countries on the Arabian peninsula and begin trade negotiations with Israel next year, state media said on Tuesday, as Beijing accelerates efforts to sign such agreements.
China and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - started free trade talks in 2004, and a deal will help China cut costs on energy imports from the region, the official China Daily said.
"GCC countries consider China as a major market for their petrochemical products, and this (FTA) will assist those nations in their industrial development," Zhang Shaogang, head of the Commerce Ministry's international trade and economic affairs department, was quoted as saying.
Zhang added that the ministry has finished a feasibility study on launching free trade talks with Israel, and hopes to sign it sometime in the next few years, the English-language newspaper said.
China inked major free trade agreements with Australia and South Korea this year, and already has deals with a handful of other countries, including Costa Rica, Peru, New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)