September 27, 2011 | Agence France Presse
Palestinians to export direct to EU, avoiding Israel
STRASBOURG: The European parliament Tuesday gave its green light to a deal enabling Palestinians to export farm and fish products directly to the European Union starting next year, without transit through Israel.
Adopted days after the historic Palestinian bid for U.N. membership, the trade agreement will help boost the Palestinian economy by enabling West Bank and Gaza producers to export goods directly from early 2012, excepting fruit and vegetables.
"This vote allows the European Union to send a united signal to the region and show our commitment to a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said parliamentarian Maria Eleni Koppa.
Agreed in principle last April, the deal between the EU and the Palestinian Authority grants direct duty-free and mostly quota-free access to the European market to products previously under control of Israeli customs.
"This is one of the most generous trade agreements involving the agricultural sector concluded by the EU," said EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos.
Asked by the parliament to ensure produce from "illegal" Israeli settlements in the West Bank could not gain access to Europe with preferential tariffs, Ciolos said:
"I want to be clear about that, the European Commission is trying to make sure no products reach the EU from Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories."
The Palestinian Authority is at present the EU’s smallest trading partner in the Mediterranean region and one of the smallest worldwide.
Total trade amounted to 56.6 million euros in 2009, of which 50.5 million euros were EU exports. Agricultural products made up 70.1 per cent of Palestinian imports to the EU the same year.
The trade deal is to last 10 years but may be extended.