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Information on Trade Agreements Needs to be More Forthcoming

BCCCAG15 006In response to recent news on the EU referendum, Black Country Chamber of Commerce President, Ninder Johal wants to remind Black Country businesses of the number of Trade Agreements currently being negotiated on our behalf by the EU. He said:

“Whilst business people are focused on the EU debate and referendum - 49% of West Midlands businesses who completed the recent British Chambers of Commerce survey say that they are following debate very or quite closely and 75% say that they are completely or quite familiar with the impact on their own business – we have provided an update on the various trade agreements being negotiated without recourse to full consultation. Full details of the schemes can be found on the Black Country Chamber website.

“The Trade in Services Agreement is a trade treaty between 25 countries, including the EU and the worldwide trade of services such as banking, health care and transport. The EU and the US are the main proponents of the agreement. It covers about 70% of the global services economy.

“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US covering 46% of world GDP. However, very little information has been forthcoming and we are very concerned about the apparent ability of US companies to sue EU governments through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement where US legislation conflicts with EU legislation. Although we welcome freedom to trade, we will not disadvantage our own businesses.

“The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a free trade agreement between Canada and the EU. CETA is expected to be implemented in late 2016, with 98% of both Canadian and EU tariffs eliminated immediately upon entry into force.

“The World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation is expected to reduce total trade costs by more than 14% for low-income countries and more than 13% for upper middle-income countries by streamlining the flow of trade across borders.

“There are three schemes being negotiated between Latin America and the EU:  Mercosur - Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Andean Community - Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador - signed a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU. The Caribbean community (CARICOM) has launched an Economic Partnership Agreement with their European counterparts. The EU and Mexico concluded an Economic Partnership, Political Coordination and Cooperation Agreement in 1997. The Impact Assessment should be complete by the end of this year and negotiations launched in mid-2016.

“There has been a lot of activity in the Far East and amongst developing nations. Key areas that need to be discussed include: improved market access, government procurement and sustainable development. Economic Partnership Agreements provide immediate duty-free access to the EU for all developing country products, while in return developing countries gradually reduce duties on 75-80% of EU imports, over 15-20 years. Generalised schemes of preferences continue to provide full duty-free access to EU markets for the Least Developed Countries.

“The Eastern European Partnership is a joint initiative of the EU and its Eastern European partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. This was initiated by Poland and a subsequent proposal was prepared in co-operation with Sweden. The Eastern Partnership was inaugurated by the European Union in Prague on 7 May 2009.”

The Black Country Chamber President concluded his summary by saying: “I am not convinced that our businesses understand the full significance of these agreements nor are they taking advantage of new arrangements. Our most recent economic survey shows a significant drop in export sales and orders for Black Country manufacturers. I strongly urge our businesses to speak to our International Trade team who will help them better understand the opportunities and the risks.”

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