Monday 13 November 2017

EU free trade agreements: implementation and future

The blog post Reflection paper on globalisation: Opportunity or threat? introduced the European Commission’s reflection paper on harnessing globalisation COM(2017) 240 and the entry Fair, competitive and resilient: EU responds to globalisation indicated paths for rules, firms and societies.

Here, as part of the discussion about the future of Europe - #FutureOfEurope on Twitter - we go beyond the reflection paper to look at facts and opinion regarding globalisation - European and world integration - especially international trade.

A fresh report about existing EU trade agreements offers us substance on current issues and avenues for the future of international trade.

EU trade agreements

On Thursday, 9 November 2017, the European Commission published an assessment of existing trade agreements, with suggestions for future improvement IP/17/4486. The press release was accompanied by a three-page factsheet on the implementation report, which groups the 25 agreements in force into four categories depending on their scope and economic and political objectives (page 3):  

  • "First generation agreements", e.g. those concluded in the past with Switzerland, Mediterranean countries, South Africa or Chile, that focussed on increasing EU exports through elimination of customs duties;  
  • Much more recent, "New Generation agreements", like those with Korea, Andean countries and Central America, that extend to new areas and include rules ensuring that trade goes hand in hand with sustainable development;  
  • Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas created to support close economic relations with EU's neighbours, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova;  
  • Economic Partnership Agreements focused on development needs of African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.  

Increasingly, sustainable development goals (SDGs) are taken into account, as we are going to see later.

For those interested, here are the EU trade agreements in force and here is an overview of free trade agreements FTAs and other trade agreements being negotiated, complemented by a blog post Reviewing our trade agreements, by the trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

The perception of the European Commission being in cahoots with corporations, while keeping the public in dark, used to lead to much suspicion and resistance among Europeans. In addition to more comprehensive and fairer rules, the Juncker Commission has promised more transparent trade negotiations.
The Council’s web page on EU trade agreements offers a quick view of the role of the Council and names the ongoing trade agreement negotiations with Japan, Mercosur, Mexico, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.  

Implementation of EU free trade agreements
More detailed information is on offer in the FTA implementation report, which is already available on Eur-Lex in all the official EU languages, except Irish Gaelic; here the English language version:

Report from the Commission on Implementation of Free Trade Agreements 1 January 2016 - 31 December 2016; Brussels, 9.11.2017 COM(2017) 654 final (41 pages)

The  Commission staff working document accompanying the FTA implementation report has been published only in English:
Country reports and info sheets on implementation of EU Free Trade Agreements; Brussels, 9.11.2017 SWD(2017) 364 final (136 pages)

Future of EU trade

On Friday, 10 November 2017, the EU trade ministers were informed about the FTA implementation report (page 6) at the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade).   
Looking forward to the future of Europe, according to the provisional version of the conclusions, the trade ministers were briefed about the WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, the state of play of negotiations with Mexico and Mercosur, the home stretch of the economic partnership agreement to be concluded with Japan, trade and sustainable development (TSD) chapters in EU trade agreements (including the Commission’s July 2017 TSD non-paper), and trade relations with Colombia and Peru.

The European Commission’s announcement about the upcoming EU Trade Policy Day and the enlightening  Trade Policy in a Turbulent World programme for the 5 December 2017 provide additional information about topical issues.

Ralf Grahn

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