The following notable developments have occurred in relation to the EU’s on-going or pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations in recent weeks:
The EU finally concluded its FTA negotiations with Singapore on 16 December 2012. Initialling of the FTA, after the necessary legal “scrubbing” has been performed, is expected to take place in Spring 2013, followed by the necessary ratification procedures at both ends (e.g. Council decision on signature and EP consent to FTA conclusion). The FTA will cover trade in goods, services, investment, public procurement, intellectual property rights and geographical indications, sustainable development, green development, and other regulatory issues. Singapore will grant immediate duty-free access to all imports from the EU, while the EU has committed to eliminate tariffs on a vast majority of imports over a transitional period following the FTA’s expected provisional application.
It is expected that the final report of the bilateral High- Level Working Group (HLWG) looking into the feasibility of an EU-US FTA will be issued towards the end of January or the beginning of February 2013. According to the Irish Presidency, the final report of the HLWG will recommend the launch of negotiations for a transatlantic trade agreement, in which case negotiations are expected to be launched at some point this year.
The EU work on the related EU-US FTA impact assessment is also nearing completion.
Negotiations between the EU and Canada will continue in January 2013. The key outstanding issues involve agricultural market access, intellectual property rights, rules of origin, geographical indications and government procurement.
It is expected that the next steps in the negotiations will involve a series of technical meetings in the beginning of 2013, followed by a ministerial meeting in February.
On 10 December 2012, the EU Council announced that it expects to conclude the Association Agreement with Ukraine (for which negotiations were finalized in late 2011 and the text was initialled in March 2012), including the establishment of a free trade area, by November 2013, on the occasion of the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. However, at the same time, the Council reiterated the expectation that Ukraine shall refrain from introducing protectionist measures (notably Ukraine’s request to raise maximum tariffs for over 300 products by renegotiating its WTO commitments). The EU is thus linking the establishment of an EU-Ukraine FTA to Ukraine’s general tariff policy, as well as certain demands relating to the Ukrainian authorities’ respect for human rights and the rule of law.
(e) Colombia-Peru/Central America
On 11 December 2012, the EP approved the two FTAs concluded between the EU and Peru and Colombia, and between the EU and six Central American countries. The EP gave its consent after agreement with the Council on safeguard regulations under these FTAs.
The two FTAs will be applied provisionally as soon as the partner countries have taken the necessary steps; the date of provisional application will be published in the Official Journal. The FTA with Peru and Colombia is expected to apply provisionally sometime in the first quarter of 2013, while provisional application of the Central America FTA is expected to come in the second quarter of 2013.