On 10 November, the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council – Trade met in Brussels for a discussion on issues of the common trade policy. Latvia was represented at the meeting by the Foreign Ministry’s Parliamentary Secretary, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica. At the Council, the Member States were presented with the first comprehensive assessment of the implementation of EU free trade agreements, and the report’s conclusions and proposals on how to promote a more active use of trade opportunities.
The European Commission (EC) comes to the conclusion in its report that lack of awareness is one of the reasons for the low take up of the free trade agreements. Therefore it is essential to ensure that information on trade opportunities with third countries is of high quality and given in comprehensible terms. Both the EC and the Member States should contribute to this process.
For the business community to make better use of the free trade agreements, the European Commission should focus more on dissemination of information concerning the simplification of trade rules, the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised.
Recent improvements to the section on the EU and Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the EU Market Access Database, which now includes a more comprehensive information on changes in export procedures to Canada, is a positive and welcome step, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica noted. At the same time, the EC should continue working to improve the database also in regard to other EU trade agreements.
Positive trends are observed in Latvia in terms of the take up of EU free trade agreements. For instance, since the application of the EU-South Korea Trade Agreement in 2011, Latvia’s export to South Korea has increased more than four-fold – from EUR 9.5 mln in 2010 to EUR 48 mln in 2016, while import over the same period has grown at a much lower rate.
At the Council, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström brought the participants up-to-date on trade negotiations with Japan, expressing hope that a final deal will be reached by the end of the year. Japan is the EU’s second largest trade partner in Asia, and the signing of such an agreement will strengthen economic links with Japan and Asia as a whole.
Following the Trade Commissioner’s presentation on the state of play in trade talks with Mexico and Mercosur, the Member States, including Latvia, stressed the need for considering the interests of the EU’s sensitive business sectors.
The Council then discussed the EU’s position and priorities at the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica noted in the discussion that the EU should continue working proactively in order to achieve an agreement on concrete initiatives in fisheries and agriculture at the WTO Ministerial Conference. It is also essential for Latvia that the conference focuses on the organisation’s role in the matters of e-commerce and a more effective operation of small and medium sized enterprises in international markets, said the Parliamentary Secretary, and highlighted the importance of the WTOs work being in line with current reality and opening new opportunities for our businessmen.
The Market Access Database is a free-of-charge interactive online database providing information on the applicable trade tariffs, the registered trade barriers, statistics, import procedures, and other matters relevant to EU companies exporting to third countries: http://madb.europa.eu/madb/indexPubli.htm
Report from the European Commission on Implementation of Free Trade Agreements: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-4486_en.htm
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