The Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area (EMFTA) is a free trade zone under construction since the Barcelona Declaration, a framework plan, was adopted in 1995. It is being built through a series of bilateral FTAs (called Association Agreements) between Brussels and each state bordering the Mediterranean, as well as so-called horizontal FTAs between the non-EU Mediterranean countries themselves, such as the Agadir Agreement.

The countries in question are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. (Libya is left out of the EMFTA plan as such, but will be served a separate bilateral trade and investment deal from the EU.)

Many people view the EU’s ambitions to build this special "partnership" with North African and Middle Eastern states — which involves not only trade and investment liberalisation but deep political reform, what Brussels calls "approximation" of other countries’ legal and political institutions with its own — as both imperialist and neocolonial. This is all the more significant taking into account the United States’ plans to weave together a US-Middle East Free Trade Agreement (MEFTA). For the two are in direct competition.

EMFTA was supposed to be completed by 2010. However, a sustainability impact assessment of EMFTA commissioned by the EU already foresees important negative social and environmental consequences. Complicating things further, French President Sarkozy took the initiative to set up a Union for the Mediterranean, involving only the countries that border the sea, which was launched in July 2008. Further still, questions have been arising as to why the EU does not merge its Mediterranean FTA initiative with its GCC FTA initiative.

In September 2011, the EU announced the opening of "deep and comprehensive" trade negotiations with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. In February 2012, the EU and Morocco signed an agricultural trade deal (which also covers fisheries). Critics have noted that the agreement will promote the exploitation of the disputed territory of Western Sahara, that the main benefactors will be transnational companies and the King of Morocco, and that small farmers will suffer under the deal.

last update: May 2012


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