Cerame-Unie participated in a number of meetings and working groups on EU trade policy and FTAs. It is clear that against a complex background in international trade, the EU is strongly committed to keep advocating for liberalisation of international trade.
The Economic Partnership Agreement has been signed in July 2018. The agreement is expected to bring substantial benefits for both sides, especially given their similar level of economic and social development, as well as their high level of regulatory standards. The comprehensive scope of the agreement covers: goods, service, investments, public procurement, intellectual property, trade and sustainable development, obligations related to the Paris Agreement, Small and Medium Enterprises, corporate governance and regulatory cooperation. The EU-Japan is now scheduled to go thought the European Parliament scrutiny. Following the INTA committee’s support, the EP plenary vote to give the Parliament consent will take place on December 10. Cerame-Unie was amongst 27 signatories of a Joint-Statement from European business organisations reiterating their support for the agreement and asking for a swift ratification process.
Negotiations for a regional agreement have stopped in favour of a building blocks approach. Results have been mixed. Agreements have been concluded with two countries: Vietnam and Singapore. For both countries, following Opinion 2/15 of the European Court of Justice in May 2017 the Agreement was split into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and an Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Agreement with Singapore was signed on 19 October during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit. The agreement with Vietnam was adopted by the Commission on 17 October but, given the strict timeframe, it may not enter into force before the next EP elections. The text is currently under translation, but the Council is already working on it to speed-up the process. Negotiations with other ASEAN countries are slowly proceeding or have stopped due to political and human rights issues. The Commission hopes to conclude first the agreements with Singapore then Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Negotiations with Australia and New Zealand were officially launched in July 2018. Second round of negotiations will be held, respectively, in November and October. However, the European Commission noted that due to election period in Australia, negotiation pace may slow down.
EU-Mercosur negotiations reached the 36th round. Despite major progress was achieved after the negotiations resumed in 2016, some outstanding issues remain unsolved including: car/car parts, maritime transport; geographic indications; dairy products; EU agriculture concessions. Indeed, the last round, hosted by Uruguay in September 2018, didn’t produce substantial improvements.