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EFTA and Korea launch free trade negotiations

European Free Trade Association

Geneva, 16 December 2004

The EFTA States and Korea launch free trade negotiations

Ministers from the Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland - and the Republic of Korea met in Geneva on 16 December 2004 to launch negotiations on a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The Ministers issued a Joint Statement in which they agree to aim at concluding the negotiations before the end of 2005.

The Ministers recalled the Record of Understanding that was signed in Paris on 14 May 2004 and which established a Joint EFTA-Korea Study Group to evaluate the feasibility of concluding a free trade agreement between the EFTA States and Korea. The Group met twice during 2004 and finalised the report on its findings on 15 October 2004.

The report by the Joint Study Group underlines the complementarity of the export-based economies of the EFTA States and of Korea and the potential for mutual expansion of business opportunities in their respective regions. The Group confirmed that an agreement would create a win-win situation by providing for a wide range of tangible benefits for all the Parties.

The Joint Study Group recommended that, in order to maximise the benefits, the prospective EFTA-Korean Free Trade Agreement should be built on the principles of comprehensiveness, substantial liberalisation and consistency with WTO rules. The liberalisation process under such an Agreement should cover all sectors. The Agreement should address the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. The negotiations will cover goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights, public procurement, anti-competitive practices affecting trade as well as institutional provisions and dispute settlement.

In 2003, trade between the EFTA States and Korea amounted to more than 2 billion US dollars. The EFTA States, totalling 12 million citizens, have Free Trade Agreements with partner countries that represent a population of 280 million, in addition to their free trade relations with the European Union, which comprises a population of 455 million.

The first round of negotiations is foreseen to take place in Geneva between 18 and 21 January 2005.

 source: EFTA Secretariat