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 29 November 2012, the Foreign Affairs Council for Trade adopted directives for negotiations on a free trade agreement with Japan, authorizing the European Commission to open the negotiations. In preparation for the Council meeting, intensive institutional discussions focussed on EU negotiating goals for issues such as Japanese non-tariff barriers and possible safeguard mechanisms for the car industry. The bilateral FTA negotiations are expected to be launched in the beginning of 2013.
While the final report of the bilateral High-Level Working Group with a possible recommendation on the launch of FTA talks was expected to be released in December, recent statements by EU Trade Commissioner, De Gucht, indicate that there may be delays. This is because Working Group discussions continue in December on the potential structure of an agreement and certain regulatory trade barriers to be resolved in the short-term as part of a confidence-building exercise.
At the Foreign Affairs Council for Trade meeting held on 29 November 2012, there were calls for finalizing the EU-Canada FTA negotiations in the coming months. A week before the meeting, EU Trade Commissioner, De Gucht, met with his Canadian counterpart in efforts to resolve final outstanding issues, including market access for agricultural goods, but the Commissioner reported to the Council that a final deal had not been reached. Accordingly, negotiations and ministerial meetings are expected to continue in January 2013.
Public procurement offers have recently been exchanged between the EU and India as part of FTA negotiations, a development that is hoped be part of an effort to bring renewed momentum to the negotiations. It is expected that it will become clearer whether negotiations could feasibly be concluded in the first half of 2013.
EU-Singapore FTA negotiations were also discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council for Trade meeting on 29 November 2012. It was confirmed that they are close to conclusion, with certain remaining outstanding issues (including on financial services). Negotiations are therefore expected to continue, with the aim of settling final outstanding issues in the coming month.
(f) Euro-Med: Morocco
As part of efforts to “upgrade” existing association agreements with the Euro-Med countries Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia to enhance market access, the EU has recently launched scoping exercises to define the level of ambition of possible deep and comprehensive FTAs with these countries. At the Foreign Affairs Council for Trade meeting held on 29 November 2012, it was confirmed that the launch of such FTA negotiations with Morocco are imminent, whilst preparatory work on the other FTA negotiations continues.