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EFTA Signs FTAs With Serbia And Albania

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

22 December 2009

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – signed two comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Albania and Serbia on December 17, in an effort to boost economic ties.

Both agreements contain provisions for the liberalization of trade in goods. According to the texts, EFTA will abolish all customs duties on industrial products, including fish and other marine products, as soon as the agreement enters into force, after the agreement gains parliamentary approval in the respective states. While Albania is to abolish tariffs on industrial goods imported from EFTA member states as soon as the agreement enters into force, Serbia will remove such tariffs by end-2013. Existing bilateral arrangements on agricultural products between the individual EFTA member states and Albania and Serbia will form part of the instruments establishing the free-trade area between both sides.

The text also includes provisions on the protection of intellectual property rights, on services and investment, and on public procurement. Joint committees will be established to supervise the functioning of the agreements.

In 2008, trade between Albania and EFTA (USD42m) was considerably less than that traded with Serbia (USD338m). In the case of Serbia, exports from EFTA reached USD267m, consisting mainly of pharmaceutical products, machinery, optical/medical equipment, clocks and watches, and chemicals, while imports from Serbia, worth USD71m, were mainly aluminum, machinery, edible fruits and nuts. Companies from EFTA are significant investors in the Serbian services and manufacturing sectors.

Trade with Albania is also mainly EFTA exports (USD38m) of pharmaceutical products, machinery and tobacco. EFTA imports around USD4m of products from Albania, with machinery, mechanical appliances, grains and seeds, and woven apparel being the leading items.

EFTA is the world’s ninth largest merchandise trader, and has now concluded 20 Free Trade Agreements with 29 partner countries outside the EU. Of EFTA’s total trade, 80% is covered by preferential trade agreements.

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