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EFTA Unveils Progress On FTAs

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

23 June 2011

Following a recent gathering of European Free Trade Association (EFTA) ministers in Schaan, the Liechtenstein administration announced details of the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Hong Kong.

In its release, the Principality’s administration noted that the ministerial meeting of EFTA member states (comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), and presided over by Liechtenstein’s Foreign Minister Aurelia Frick, focussed on the current situation as well as on future prospects for the group’s free trade policy.

Foreign Minister Frick emphasized that the conclusion of free trade agreements serves to improve the framework conditions for economic and trade relations.

During the course of the meeting, the free trade agreement with Hong Kong was signed, bringing the total number of EFTA’s free trade agreements, concluded with 32 countries and territories outside of the European Union, to 23. Hong Kong, the Liechtenstein administration explained, is one of the world’s most important trading partners. The new bilateral FTA between Hong Kong and EFTA states serves to strengthen EFTA’s commitments in Asia, the administration added.

EFTA is also aiming to conclude free trade negotiations this year with India, another major trading partner in Asia, the administration continued, noting that negotiations with Indonesia are also progressing well and that EFTA would also like to extend trade and investment relations with Malaysia, building on an existing statement of cooperation and to begin dialogue with Vietnam. Negotiations with Thailand will be resumed as soon as the political situation permits, the administration revealed.

According to the Liechtenstein administration, EFTA states are also pleased with initial progress so far as regards current negotiations with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and expect a free trade agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina and with Montenegro to be signed during the course of EFTA’s forthcoming ministerial meeting in the autumn. EFTA is also eager for commercial reasons to discuss expanding contractual relations with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as with the Central American states of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.

In a separate release, the Liechtenstein administration confirmed the entry into force of the free trade agreements between EFTA and Columbia and between EFTA and Peru. Both agreements are very similar in their content, the administration stated, underlining the comprehensive sectoral area of application, and explaining that both agreements contain provisions pertaining to goods trade, investment the protection of intellectual rights, government procurement, competition, and to economic cooperation. Trade with agricultural products is to be regulated by bilateral agreements that have been simultaneously negotiated and concluded between Liechtenstein-Switzerland and Columbia and Liechtenstein-Switzerland and Peru, the administration made known. Both individual agricultural agreements are also due to enter into force on July 1.

In concrete terms, the administration emphasized that from July 1, Liechtenstein and Switzerland will have duty free access to the Columbian and Peruvian market place for the majority of its manufactured products.

Underscoring the value of the agreements, the administration stated that it will now be possible for Liechtenstein and Switzerland to strengthen their economic and trade relations with these countries, which show significant growth potential. The agreements will also serve to remove existing disadvantages for companies based in the economic area of Liechtenstein and Switzerland compared to their main competitors, who currently benefit from, or will in future benefit from, preferential agreements with these countries. At the same time, the treaties establish a competitive advantage for businesses compared to countries that do not currently have such agreements in place with these trading partners.

TAGS: Russia | business | free trade agreement (FTA) | Iceland | India | Paraguay | Uruguay | Liechtenstein | Norway | Thailand | Montenegro | agreements | Belarus | Brazil | Costa Rica | Guatemala | Hong Kong | Indonesia | Kazakhstan | Malaysia | Peru | Switzerland | trade | Argentina | El Salvador | Honduras | Panama | Vietnam

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