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EU: Update on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

The EU has agreed and negotiated various trade deals all over the world. Read our overview of the negotiations in progress and latest updates. Date of last update: 28.01.2024



Latest Update


Briefing on Trade agreements: what the EU is working on

The EU negotiates various trade deals all over the world, but they depend on approval by the European Parliament. Read our overview of the negotiations in progress.


Other FTA Updates

  • Council Decision on the position to be adopted on behalf of the European Union within the CETA Joint Committee established under the CETA between Canada, of the one part, and the EU and its Member States, of the other part, as regards the adoption of an Interpretation of Article 8.10, Annex 8-A, Article 8.9 and Article 8.39 thereof in accordance with its Article 26.1.5(e)

  • Council Decision on the position to be taken on behalf of the EU in the CETA Joint Committee established under the CETA between Canada, of the one part, and the EU and its Member States, of the other part, as regards the adoption of a decision on the interpretation of Article 8.10, Annex 8-A, Article 8.9.1 and Article 8.39.3 of CETA in accordance with Article 26.1.5(e) of CETA - Adoption

  • Draft Interpretation of the CETA Joint Committee regarding Article 8.10, Annex 8-A, Article 8.9 and Article 8.39 of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

  • Protocol amending the Agreement between the European Union and Japan for an Economic Partnership - See Council Decision on Signing and on the Conclusion

  • Joint statement following the meeting of the Specialised Committee on the implementation of the Windsor Framework on 24 January 2024

  • Minutes of the Third Trade Specialised Committee on Regulatory Cooperation under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement


Latest Overview



The signifiance of EU FTAs

Since trade agreements are a major factor in economic development, they constitute an essential part of the EU's trade strategy.


The EU surpassed the US (10%) to become the second-largest global goods exporter in 2022, after only China (18%). In 2022, it surpassed China (13%) to become the second-largest importer (15%), after only the United States (16%). additional trade agreements provide European businesses additional avenues for expansion, which boosts employment and gives customers more options and cheaper costs.


Trade agreements usually produce more jobs than they kill, despite worries that they may cause employment losses in particular industries owing to greater competition. They may result in high standards for goods like food being diluted, which is another worry.

Nonetheless, the EU is well-positioned to enforce its requirements on international businesses given the size of its market.


Value of EU trade deals surpasses €2 trillion

The value of EU trade through free trade agreements with global partners surpassed €2 trillion for the first time in 2022, according to the 3rd Annual Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of EU Trade Policy published.

The European Commission report shows that trade with our top 20 trade agreement partners grew by close to 30% on average in 2022. The Commission, working with Member States and EU businesses, also broke down over 30 barriers to trade in 19 countries. Tackling barriers over the last five years helped unlock 7 billion euros of EU exports in 2022 alone. Our agreements have also delivered stronger protection of the environment and labour rights.

The EU has the largest network of trade agreements in the world, with a total of 74 countries, accounting for 44% of all EU trade. In 2022, trade between the EU and its trade agreement partners (excluding energy products) outgrew EU trade with all other partners. These deals have helped sustain trade and investment in a difficult global business environment characterised by growing geopolitical challenges, such as Russia's aggression against Ukraine.


Trade agreements support exports, resilience and diversification

Trade agreements continued to deliver economic growth and more resilient supply chains, by:

Opening new export opportunities for EU producers and farmers: for example, under the respective trade agreements, EU exports in pharmaceuticals to Vietnam increasedby 152%, cars and parts to South Korea by 217%, EU exports of meat to Canada increased by 136% and EU services' exports to Canada rose by 54%. EU trade supports 670 000 small and medium sized EU businesses exporting to third countries.


Making exports more resilient to external shocks: In 2022, EU exports of sanctioned goods to preferential partners surged by €174 billion, offsetting by far the €27 billion lost in exports to Russia.


Securing access to important inputs and reducing over-dependence on a single country: in the first five years of the EU-Canada (CETA) agreement, EU imports of critical raw materials from Canada rose by 56%, compared to growth of only 25% of these materials from other sources, contributing to the EU's strategy to diversify away from Russia. Critical raw materials are essential for the green and digital transformations of the EU economy.


Removing barriers and progressing on disputes

In 2022, the Commission got 31 trade barriers removed in 19 partner countries. This helps boost EU exports in important sectors such as agri-food, pharmaceuticals, and health and beauty.

Examples include the US amending longstanding barriers to the import of sheep and goat products, and Costa Rica removing its decade-long 10% tax on EU imported beer.

Dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization continued. The EU launched four new disputes, including the first ever with the United Kingdom, over a discriminatory subsidies scheme for green energy. This dispute was resolved after only four months through mutual agreement. The EU also prevailed in its dispute with Türkiye over discriminatory practices in pharmaceuticals, and is now monitoring Türkiye's steps towards compliance.


Promoting sustainability

The EU also made progress on labour and environment issues under those agreements that include a Trade and Sustainable Development chapter. As part of this work, Japan and South Korea ratified core International Labour Organization conventions foreseen in their respective trade agreements with the EU. Deeper engagement with Peru and Colombia has led these countries to launch a revision of their labour codes.


For More Information

Further resources


Previous Updates


Discussion on FTAs

The European Parliament discussed the need for new trade agreements to support sustainable growth, competitiveness, and the EU's strategic autonomy on October 4th 2023. Here is what they said.


The EU Commission met the European Parliament's MEPs for a debate on the future of FTAs in the EU.


You can read the exchanges below, in a nutshell, however, the EU Commission said that the Union faces an increasingly difficult international climate.


Global Tensions

Strategic rivalry between the US and China, the Ukraine conflict, and the multilateralism issue are increasing global tensions. The economy is plagued by inflation, supply chain disruptions, weaponization of dependence, and subsidiary risk. Finally, we must address climate change and other sustainable goals in labour, environment, and development.


Fragmentation

Fragmentation is real and would have terrible economic implications. Thank goodness we don't have to take this danger passively. We can reduce it. This complex climate needs a proactive, comprehensive policy response using several instruments. Trade policy helps achieve sustained development, competitiveness, and strategic autonomy. We are stronger due of trade policies and free trade agreements.


The case for FTAs

FTAs boost economic agility, competitiveness, and resilience the EU Commission says. FTAs link us to other growing zones, encourage innovation, and generate and maintain high-quality employment. EU exports provide 38 million employment, increasing 11 million from 2010. FTAs provide the imports we need at competitive costs and create export prospects that help us and our companies develop and boost efficiency via economies of scale.


Our economy is more resilient with FTAs. They diversify our imports and exports. Our market losses from Russia's unlawful invasion of Ukraine would have been more than offset by concluding our FTA discussions.


Trade agreements strengthen ties and alliances in these times of rising geopolitical tensions. They foster trust and political connections with a wide range of partners, from like-minded mature economies to growing ones.


Finally, our FTAs allow us to collaborate with worldwide partners on sustainability goals and standards. For that reason, our FTAs contain trade and sustainable development chapters with enforceable obligations based on international labour, environment, and climate standards.


EU FTAs are among the largest worldwide.

We must act as our situation changes and our trading partners strengthen their relationships. Thus, we need a vigorous FTA agenda. It's crucial to our competitiveness, economic security, and capacity to change for the better.


In her State of the EU address a few weeks ago, President von der Leyen stressed the need of free and fair trade. Expanding our trade agreements is a vital aspect of our de-risking strategy and business-ease activities.


Smart Trade

Smart trade creates wealth and employment. Much progress has been made in recent years, but more is needed. We currently have numerous negotiated agreements awaiting signature and ratification. Our capacity to do so determines our economic and geopolitical credibility.


We are also negotiating with several partners, including established economies and large developing markets. Each negotiation has its own nuances and demands knowledge and flexibility, but they all form part of a larger engagement effort the EU has to undertake to accomplish its goals in today's environment.


EU - NZ in 2024

Ratifying our previous agreements is the realistic first step. Making sure the FTA with New Zealand is finalised so it can take effect in 2024.


Chile and Kenya

Accelerating the signing and completion of the Chile and Kenya accords.


Others

We must also forward our negotiation agenda. To rapidly finish deals with Australia, Mexico, Mercosur, India, and Indonesia. Thailand conversations have also resumed.


Strengthen third-country ties

FTAs are simply one way to strengthen third-country ties. WTO tariffs and restrictions dominate our commerce. We must continue to support and modernise the rules-based multilateral trading system, which ensures international trade stability and prevents protectionism. We shall keep WTO sustainability principles.


Flexibility

On the other hand, we build flexible methods to enhance collaboration with foreign nations in mutually beneficial fields. The EU, Ecuador, Kenya, and New Zealand formed the Trade Ministers Coalition for Climate to improve trade-climate interaction. Trade and technology councils with the US and India and the Critical Raw Materials Club help here.


This is why we are creating digital commerce and raw material collaborations. Active and flexible trade policies should complement each other. We should collaborate to deliver.


Read the exchange with MEPs


More information & Links


Free Trade Agreements - all updates in one place and constantly updated


EU: Overview of all Free Trade Agreements + State of Play

Download the updated document detailing the state of play of all the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) the EU has signed.


EU - Thailand FTA: Negotiations Progress Report + Text Proposals

The EU negotiates a Free Trade Agreement with Thailand. On this page, we explain what it is about and we report on progress.


EU-Kenya FTA: EU Ratification Progresses - Get Your TRADE ready!

The EU is set to pass the EU-Kenya FTA. Download the latest draft statute and key annexes here to prepare to ship duty-free under the FTA's Rules of Origin + Explainer, Factsheet and FAQ



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