EFTA Council Chair outlines priorities for first half of 2013

Published: 07-02-2013
Elin Østebø Johansen, Norway's Ambassador to the WTO and EFTA.
The EFTA Council held its first meeting of 2013 on 7 February in Geneva, under the Norwegian Chairmanship. Ambassador Elin Østebø Johansen presented Norway’s priorities for the first half of the year. The Council adopted the EFTA-Eurostat Technical Cooperation Programme for 2013 and discussed ongoing free trade processes.

Priorities for this semester include signing free trade agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Central American States of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama; moving forward in talks with India and the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, as well as with Indonesia and Vietnam; and holding a first round of negotiations with Malaysia. Other objectives for 2013 include starting negotiations on an expansion of the free trade agreement with Canada and continuing to explore the possibility of developing closer trade relations with other potential partners, in particular countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.   

The cooperation programme for 2013 between EFTA and Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, includes training courses and seminars for statisticians from various countries, including the Palestinian Authority, Turkey and Ukraine.

The Council also reviewed the recent round of free trade negotiations with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, held from 28 to 31 January 2013 in Astana. Progress was made during the talks and a detailed programme of follow-up work was agreed upon ahead of the next meeting, planned for April in Russia

The next Council meeting will take place on 18 April 2013.