A Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Trade issues took place in Brussels today (8.5.2014), chaired by Greek Deputy Minister of Development and Competitiveness, Notis Mitarachi. The agenda focused on progress in negotiations with the EU’s key trading partners, notably, Canada, Japan and the US. The Greek Presidency has set as one of its key priorities the promotion of growth and jobs and these agreements, once concluded, are expected to contribute significantly to this goal.
On Canada, the Council was briefed by the Commission on the progress in the finalization of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA). The Council took note of the information provided by the Commission, and the comments made by delegations, regarding the progress achieved on the main technical issues still pending concerning the text of the agreement. The Council expects to receive the complete finalized texts of the agreement as soon as the technical discussions are concluded, in time to scrutinize them before its initialing.
On Japan, the Council took note of the Commission's oral report on the fulfillment of Japan's commitments on elimination of NTBs and opening up of government procurement as well as of the progress made in the EU-Japan FTA negotiations. In view of the absence of the assessment of the Commission, the Council only held an initial exchange of views. Discussions will be taken forward as soon as we have the assessment by the Commission within the Trade Policy Committee, with a view to its prompt conclusion.
On the Doha Development Agenda, the Council had an exchange of views, on the basis of a note from the Commission, on the EU's "post-Bali" agenda following the WTO ministerial conference held at the end of 2013.
The Council adopted conclusions on a multilateral "green goods initiative", welcoming the announcement made by 14 WTO members, in Davos on 24 January 2014, on achieving global free trade in environmental goods and calling for a rapid start of negotiations as the first step in a process towards a multilateral outcome. The Council also adopted negotiating directives on environmental goods in order to guide the Commission in its negotiations.
Over lunch, the Council had the opportunity to have an exchange of views on progress in the TTIP negotiations with the US, on the basis of an update provided by Commissioner for Trade, Karel de Gucht.
The Council also took stock of progress in negotiations on economic partnership agreements, focusing on those closest to finalization, i.e. with West Africa, the East African Community and the South African Development Community.
The Council also took note of issues relating to the extension of trade preferences to Croatia by third countries that have free trade agreements with the EU and supported the Commission in moving swiftly forward in this framework.