The EU is currently exploring, negotiating or applying a number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). This is an update on the state of play in early 2016.
At the Sixth Civil Society Dialogue on 2 December DG Trade and stakeholders discussed the progress and exchanged views on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), following the eleventh round of negotiations held in October. Three pillars were discussed during the negotiations: market access, regulatory cooperation and rules. On regulatory cooperation, the EU and the US do not envisage any generalised obligation of recognition of rules. The objective is to establish a transparent participation process in standardisation and cooperation on existing and future standards to be referenced in the future. The European Commission asked the industry to propose where cooperation can be expected.
On 19 November the INTA Committee discussed the draft motion for a resolution on the opening of negotiations for an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). MEPs exchanged on various aspects of the FTA ranging from political to agricultural, as well as services and social rights. MEP Cicu (EPP, IT), Vice-Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula, stressed that the Parliament needs to look at the impact assessment to assess the effects of this agreement. In line with the EPP group, MEP Cicu noted that the EU should include an energy chapter owing to the importance of the electricity connection with Tunisia.
As announced earlier this year, the EU and Turkey wish to modernise the EU-Turkey Customs Union. At an event in Brussels on 8 December, BUSINESSEUROPE underlined the mutual benefits that a modernisation of the Customs Union would bring for EU and Turkish companies, especially SMEs. While the current agreement only covers industrial goods and processed agricultural goods, the modernisation would focus on provisions on services, public procurement and agriculture. The political process will begin following a completion of an impact assessment of the EC and a public consultation to be launched in early 2016.
Following nine negotiation rounds and a three-year break, the EU and Mercosur agreed to proceed with an exchange of market access offers in the final quarter of 2015. At a meeting in Brussels on 18 November, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Loizaga informed EU Trade Commissioner Malmström of Mercosur’s decision to begin the negotiations. However, the start of the negotiations is delayed due to a divergence on the coverage of the number of tariff lines. Commissioner Malmström and Brazilian Foreign Minister Vieira agreed to talk again in the context of COP21 in Paris or MC10 in Nairobi.
In late 2015, the European Union took part in the final round of negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). This plurilateral trade agreement aims at removing tariffs on several hundreds of products. Should the plurilateral talks result in an EGA, the products under discussion would be ultimately subject to 0% import-export duty among 17 countries, including the EU, the US China and Japan. However, important trade partners such as Russia and Brazil are not taking part in the discussions.
Furthermore, the list of products subject to negotiations climbed to 600 in early 2015 (as compared to 54 products in 2012) and was subsequently reduced towards the end of 2015. However, the product list subject to negotiations has not been made public and several sectors are concerned by the lack of transparency in the negotiations. In meetings with EU officials, manufacturing sectors including ceramics put forward the view that the EU would have more to lose than gain if certain products are included on the list.
The FTA between the EU and South Korea, which was signed in Brussels in October 2010 and provisionally applied since July 2011, will enter into force on 13 December 2015. Under the agreement import duties will be eliminated on all goods except on a limited number of agricultural products as of 1 July 2016.
Following two and a half years of negotiations, the EU and Vietnam formally signed an FTA on 2 December. It should be published online by the end of 2015 and is expected to take effect in late 2017 or early 2018.
Furthermore, the Commission will launch the first round of negotiations with the Philippines in early 2016. This follows a green light from the Council on 16 November to launch talks based on the ASEAN negotiating mandate.
Despite substantial progress after twelve rounds of negotiations, the EU and Japan will continue the negotiations in the first quarter of 2016.
On 1 December INTA MEPs held a hearing on future trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, which are expected to comprise market access, regulatory co-operation and rule-setting. MEP Daniel Caspary is the INTA Standing Rapporteur for Australia and New Zealand.
The EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) provisionally entered into force on 1 January 2016. Once fully ratified, it will eliminate more than 98% of duties between the EU and Ukraine.