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Leuthard Hosts EFTA Ministers In Lugano

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

27 June 2008


Swiss Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard, the head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA), will chair the European Free Trade Association's (EFTA) next ordinary ministerial meeting in Lugano on 30th June.

EFTA comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Together with her counterparts she will primarily be discussing issues relating to EFTA's policy on free trade agreements with non-EU countries.

Switzerland and the other EFTA states wish to follow an active policy of pursuing the conclusion of free trade agreements, with a view to improving the conditions which define global economic cooperation.

For Switzerland, whose economy is highly dependent on international trade, the conclusion of free trade agreements constitutes an important instrument, both in terms of developing trade relations and preferential investment arrangements with third countries, to complement the multilateral trade system governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

A meeting between the EFTA ministers and the Colombian Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, Luis Guillermo Plata Páez, will mark the conclusion of negotiations on a free trade agreement between EFTA and Colombia.

This agreement will help strengthen economic ties between EFTA and Latin America.

Colombia is Switzerland's fourth most important export market in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

The ministers of the EFTA states will also take note of the recent finalisation of negotiations on a free trade agreement with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman). These two agreements should be signed in the next few months.

The ministers will take note of the entry into force on 1st May 2008 of the free trade agreement between EFTA and the states of the SACU (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland).

This agreement will broaden the framework to strengthen economic relations and cooperation with countries on the African continent.

The free trade agreement between EFTA and Canada, signed in Davos in January 2008, is expected to enter into force at the beginning of 2009.

The ministers will review the progress of free trade negotiations currently under way between EFTA and India, Peru, Algeria and Thailand. They will also examine ongoing work with a view to opening negotiations with Indonesia, Serbia and Albania.

In addition, the ministers will review the progress of the Joint Russia-EFTA Study Group that is examining the possibilities of liberalising mutual trade and investment relations and the feasibility of a free trade agreement.

The Study Group's final report is expected in November 2008.

Finally, the ministers will meet and exchange views with the EFTA Parliamentary Committee and with the Consultative Committee, which represents the social partners.


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