On 31 October 2018, the European Commission issued its second annual Report on Implementation of EU Free Trade Agreements, covering calendar year 2017. According to the report the agreements, which cover nearly 70 markets all over the world, are proving effective in removing barriers to trade and promoting high standards of labour and environment protection. However, European exporters could make even more out of the opportunities offered by the agreements in place. A press release issued by the Commission stated in part:

Today’s report covers developments in 2017 and shows that trade under existing EU trade agreements keeps growing. To give a few examples, exports to South Korea increased by over 12% last year, exports to Colombia by more than 10%, and EU exports to Canada rose by 7% in the nine months following the entry into force of the EU-Canada agreement. EU agri-food producers are among the main beneficiaries of scrapped customs duties, with strong export increases last year especially to Ecuador (+34%), Chile (+29%), Serbia (+23%), Turkey and Costa Rica (both +14%).

As regards regulatory obstacles to trade, EU trade agreements last year made it possible to open the Mexican market to European health products, while also opening the Chilean and Peruvian markets to some EU agri-food exports, and paved the way for EU companies to bid in public tenders in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

When it comes to the promotion of EU standards and sustainable development, thanks to specific provisions in EU trade agreements, partners such as Canada and Mexico ratified International Labour Organisation Conventions last year, offering greater protection to workers.

Despite these positive developments, more could still be achieved if EU companies made full use of the opportunities available under the agreements in place. For that reason, together with Member States and business networks, the Commission is boosting its efforts to inform and help EU companies, especially smaller ones, to benefit from trade deals. Initiatives include improving online tools such as the Market Access Database and the Trade Helpdesk, and providing step-by-step guidance to businesses that want to make the most out of the recent EU trade agreements with Canada and Japan.