The following notable developments have occurred in relation to the EU’s ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations:
(a) Colombia – Peru
On 16 March 2012, the Council reached a political agreement on a draft decision approving the signature of a free trade agreement between the EU on the one hand, and Columbia and Peru on the other. Formal adoption will take place at a later Council session. The EP will have to give its consent to the conclusion of the FTA before it can be provisionally applied. Ratification by the national parliaments is necessary before the FTA can definitively enter into force. The EU has agreed to eliminate all tariffs as of the entry into force of the agreement, whilst Colombia and Peru will phase out their tariffs over a ten-year transitional period.
On 30 March 2012, the Chief Negotiators of the EU and Ukraine initialled the text of the Association Agreement (the negotiations of which were concluded late last year). A Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) will form an integral part of the agreement. The next step will be the completion of the legal verification of the text, including technical annexes and protocols. On the EU side, the Commission will then formally submit proposals to the Council and the EP for the signature and conclusion of the agreement.
The EU-India summit was held on 10 February 2012. At the summit, EU and Indian leaders decided to push back the conclusion of the FTA negotiations until the autumn. Commission President Barroso stated that an agreement could be reached soon “if there is some flexibility on the Indian side”. He identified government procurement and services as the key outstanding issues. It is expected that another ministerial conference will take place at the end of the year, to conclude negotiations at the political level.
The EU-Singapore FTA negotiations are reported to have reached the final stages. Outstanding issues include services, public procurement, GIs and ASEAN cumulation for rules of origin. The negotiations could be concluded by the first half of 2012.
The EU and Malaysia met on the sidelines of the ASEAN-EU Business Summit on 30 March 2012. Both sides reviewed the progress made in the bilateral FTA negotiations and discussed the future direction of the proposed FTA. It is expected that the finalisation of negotiations will not take place until the end of 2012 at the earliest. Outstanding issues include tariff reductions for, inter alia, palm oil and alcoholic beverages, non-tariff barriers, liberalisation in the services sector with respect to financial services, telecommunications, transport, and the temporary presence of natural persons, ASEAN cumulation for rules of origin, intellectual property rights and government procurement. The 7th round of negotiations between the EU and Malaysia is scheduled to take place on 17-20 April 2012, and the 8th round from 12-15 June 2012.
On 12-16 March 2012, delegations from the EU and Mercosur held working meetings for the future negotiations of an association agreement between the EU and the region. The EU and Mercosur are expected to exchange offers on goods and services before the summer. The next negotiating round is scheduled for July 2012.
(g) Georgia and Moldova
Following the launch of negotiations on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) by the EU, Georgia and Moldova, the first negotiation rounds between the parties took place in the second half of March 2012, following technical preparatory meetings with the two countries in January 2012. These DCFTAs will form part of the Association Agreements currently under negotiation. At present, Georgia enjoys preferential access to the EU market through the GSP+ regime, while Moldova enjoys Autonomous Trade Preferences.
On 20 February 2012, the EU decided to launch negotiations on a “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area” (DCFTA) with Armenia. The DCFTA will form part of a broader Association Agreement that has been under negotiation since July 2010. The first negotiating round has not yet taken place. At present, Armenia has GSP+ status.
On 31 March 2012, the EU and Vietnam concluded a scoping paper that covered the topics to be included in future FTA negotiations. The upcoming negotiations will cover both tariff and non-tariff barriers, trade in services, intellectual property rights and competition. Before the Commission can officially launch negotiations, it first has to obtain a formal negotiating mandate from the Member States.
A bilateral meeting between the EU and the Philippines took place on the fringes of the EU-ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in late March/early April. The two sides discussed the ongoing scoping exercise. According to the Filipino negotiators, negotiations could start in the fourth quarter of 2012 or early in 2013.