The following notable developments have occurred in relation to the EU’s on-going or pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations in recent weeks:
On 25 October 2012, the EP adopted a (non-binding) resolution urging the EU to start FTA negotiations with Japan. The resolution stresses that the talks should be suspended if Japan fails to remove non-tariff barriers in key sectors, especially in the car sector, within foreseen timeframes.
Discussions on the Commission’s draft FTA negotiating mandate (which must be approved by the Council before negotiations can be launched) are currently on-going within the Council. Provided that certain important outstanding issues can be resolved by then, the Council could adopt such a mandate at the next Foreign Affairs Council meeting focusing on trade which is scheduled to take place on 29 November 2012.
The EP adopted a resolution on 23 October 2012 calling on the Commission to start negotiations with the US in early 2013 on a comprehensive trade agreement that should include market opening in goods, services and investment, but also take into account the needs of the EU farm sector.
Meanwhile, according to the EU’s Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, free trade negotiations between the EU and the US could be launched in early 2013. In the meantime, the EU and the US have reportedly identified a number of trade barriers in each other’s markets that they want to resolve in the short term as part of a “confidence-building” exercise. The final report of the bilateral High-Level Working Group with a final recommendation on the launch of FTA talks is expected to be released in December, or possibly sometime early next year (depending on the outcome of the confidencebuilding initiative).
Intensive work is currently on-going with the aim to wrap up the EU-Canada FTA negotiations by the end of the year. The final outstanding issues include market access for agricultural goods, protection of Geographical Indications (GIs), rules of origin, opening of public procurement markets, and the extension of pharmaceutical patents. The EU Trade Commissioner is scheduled to meet his Canadian counterpart in November – as part of a series of bilateral meetings – to work on these outstanding issues and it is foreseen that the Trade Ministers of the EU Member States will discuss finalisation of these negotiations during the Foreign Affairs Council meeting focussing on trade scheduled for 29 November 2012.
It appears the EU-India FTA negotiations may have lost some momentum in light of the uncertain Indian political climate and the urgent need for progress in certain areas relating to, for instance, services, car tariffs and GIs. It is currently expected that following bilateral negotiation meetings scheduled for November/December, it will become clearer whether negotiations could feasibly be concluded in the first half of 2013.
Pending upcoming elections in Malaysia (expected to be held sometime between now and June 2013), the FTA negotiations with the EU are seemingly at somewhat of a standstill. Therefore, it is currently unclear when exactly the next round of bilateral negotiations will be held and by when the negotiations can be concluded.
Intensive bilateral work is currently on-going to settle remaining issues (e.g. on GIs) and finalise the EUSingapore FTA negotiations by the end of 2012. The Foreign Affairs Council meeting focussing on trade scheduled for 29 November 2012 is expected to discuss finalisation of these FTA negotiations as well.
The latest (ninth) round of FTA negotiations between the EU and Mercosur took place in Brasilia on 22-26 October 2012. Negotiations involved the important topics of customs and trade facilitation, rules of origin, services and public procurement but there was reportedly limited progress.
Also, in light of the fact that crucial market access offers have not yet been exchanged, the dates for the next round and possible finalisation of the EU-Mercosur FTA negotiations remain unclear.
The first formal round of negotiations, focussing largely on establishing negotiation positions in various main areas, was held in Hanoi during the week of 8 October 2012. While the target date for finalisation of the negotiations is currently unclear, it is foreseen that the next negotiation round will be held in the beginning of 2013.