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European Union Trade Ministers Supported Increasing Integration of Eastern Partnership States with EU

23.10.2013

Nr 332-E


At the European Union General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, trade ministers discussed the economic dimensions of the upcoming high-level meeting about the Eastern Partnership countries in Vilnius. The Council also approved a mandate for the European Commission to begin negotiating agreements about investment with China and the ASEAN countries. EU-Japan trade relations and preparations for the WTO ministerial meeting taking place in December were also discussed. The Council was also provided with an overview of the successfully concluded free trade negotiations between the EU and Canada.

Ambassador Matti Maasikas, who represented Estonia at the European Union meeting, confirmed that there is a plan to initial association agreements, of which the most substantial parts are trade chapters, with Moldova and Georgia at the upcoming high-level meeting about the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius on 28-29 November. With these, extensive free trade areas will be created between the EU and partner countries. “The European Union has offered closer political and economic integration to the Eastern partners. The agreements initialed or signed in Vilnius will take this integration to a higher level,” acknowledged Ambassador Maasikas.

According to Ambassador Maasikas, the European Union wants to sign a similar agreement with Ukraine, although with certain qualifications, and begin to partially implement it before it even comes into force. “Due to the recently apparent pressure put on the countries of the Eastern Partnership by Russia, and in order to alleviate the economic problems it has caused, the European Union must be ready to use WTO-approved trade-support measures,” noted Matti Maasikas. “In addition to liberalising the import of Moldovan wine, the use of other trade measures to improve their access to EU markets should be considered,” specified Maasikas. The trade ministers considered Russia’s use of trade barriers as a tool to apply pressure on Lithuania, who currently holds the EU Presidency, to be unacceptable.

The Foreign Affairs Council approved a mandate for the European Commission to begin negotiating an investment agreement between the European Union and the People’s Republic of China. According to Ambassador Matti Maasikas, the objectives are to improve access to markets by investors of both sides and mutual protection of investments in the other’s markets. For the EU, China is the second most important trade partner and the EU is China’s most important trade partner.

The Council also took the decision to update the mandate of the European Commission in its trade negotiations with the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian States. As a result, the Commission can now include investment protection provisions in the negotiations. 10 Southeast Asian states are part of ASEAN: The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar/Burma.

The state of play of the negotiations regarding a free trade agreement between the EU and Japan also came under discussion, with the third round of negotiations being scheduled for 21-25 October in Brussels. The European Union is Japan’s third largest export partner and second largest import partner, after China. When speaking about the preparations for the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference taking place on 3-6 December, it was affirmed that the primary objective is the strengthening of a multilateral trade system. Hope was also expressed that a package facilitating trade, especially agricultural trade, with less developed countries would be approved at the conference.  

The ministers also welcomed the successful conclusion of the free trade agreement negotiations between the European Union and Canada, which happened today before lunch. The European Commission estimates that the coming into force of the agreement will increase trade between the EU and Canada by 23%, or 26 billion Euros. The agreement removes obstacles to the movement of goods and services, improves the protection of investments, and increases opportunities for public procurement. “The agreement that was accomplished with Canada is a great example and trendsetter for attempts to reach a similar agreement between the EU and the US, for which intensive negotiations were started in the summer,” commented Maasikas.

More info:
Marika Post
Spokesperson, Permanent Representation of Estonia at the EU
+32 474 981 657
 

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