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Trade Ministers Review Development Of EuroMed Free Trade Area

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

10 December 2009

Trade Ministers from the European Union (EU) and the Mediterranean countries met in Brussels on December 9 to discuss the next steps towards completing a deep and comprehensive Euro-Mediterranean (EuroMed) free trade area by 2010.

Trade relations between the EU and the neighboring Mediterranean (MED) countries are governed by the EuroMed partnership which was launched in November 1995. The MED partner countries are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Turkey.

The EU is the most important trading partner for the region. EU exports to the MED countries were worth around EUR132bn (USD195bn) in 2008. This represents 10% of total EU exports, or 40% of MED countries' imports. Exports from the MED countries to the EU represented around 7.5% of total EU imports, and 44% of MED exports, worth EUR116bn, in 2008.

EuroMed ministers discussed the state of play of the establishment of a EuroMed free trade area by the end of 2010. Ministers welcomed the progress made in the implementation of EuroMed association agreements between the EU and Southern Mediterranean partners and encouraged the rapid conclusion of the free trade agreement (FTA) with Syria so as to complete the network of association agreements.

In addition, EuroMed ministers welcomed progress in the consolidation of the network of FTAs amongst Mediterranean partners, in particular the recent signature of the agreement establishing a free trade area between Jordan and Turkey. The importance of completing by 2010 (or shortly thereafter) the network of FTAs between Turkey and Southern Mediterranean countries was highlighted.

It was noted that the implementation of the Agadir Agreement between Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt has resulted in an increase of trade flows amongst the partners, although there is still potential. Ministers stressed the importance of fully implementing this agreement, which remains open to other eligible Mediterranean partners, and to reinforce actions to tackle non-tariff obstacles to trade.

Within regional negotiations on the liberalization of trade in services and the right of establishment, bilateral negotiations were launched in 2008 with Egypt, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia and they should be concluded in the course of 2010. Ministers invited other interested Mediterranean partners to launch bilateral negotiations as soon as possible.

Ministers welcomed the significant progress made by the EuroMed working group concerning the single regional convention on preferential rules of origin, which will replace the current network of protocols. They also welcomed the significant progress made since the Marseille Ministerial in the negotiations on the establishment of a more efficient dispute settlement mechanism and on preferential rules of origin.

EuroMed Ministers endorsed the EuroMed Trade Roadmap beyond 2010 which should give new impetus to EuroMed trade and investment relations. The objective is to enhance economic integration and move beyond trade and investment liberalization between the EU and the Southern Mediterranean, to include ways of tackling non-tariff barriers and to provide businesses with concrete information on trade and investment opportunities across the region.

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