EU seeks to begin FTA negotiations with S. Mediterranean countries

Kuwait News Agency 9/26/2011

EU seeks to begin FTA negotiations with S. Mediterranean countries

BRUSSELS, Sept 26 (KUNA) — The European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council on Trade Monday agreed to begin negotiations on free trade agreements (FTA) with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

"The Council agreed on the importance of sending a strong signal to the Southern Mediterranean countries which are ready to undertake economic and democratic transformation," Polish economic affairs minister Marcin Korolec told a press conference after the meeting this afternoon.

Korolec chaired the meeting, as Poland holds the current EU Presidency.

He said the Council welcomed the announcement by the European Commission that it will submit to the Council in October a draft legislation to begin negotiations on direct and comprehensive FTAs with the four countries.

"The launch of those negotiations will depend on the interest and readiness of southern Mediterranean partners," he said.

On his part, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the EU will try to accelerate these negotiations, but noted that some countries want to wait until new elected, democratic governments are in place.

"With Libya, it will take a little more time," said De Gucht.

The ministers also discussed the ongoing FTA negotiations with India and Ukraine and hoped to conclude the FTA with Ukraine by end of this year, said the Polish minister.

They also discussed Russian membership in the WTO and hoped that discussion could be completed during the WTO (World Trade Organization) ministerial meeting in Geneva in December.

De Gucht said that he expects to conclude FTA negotiations with India by next February, but admitted that outstanding problems remain.

source: KUNA