The 60th Annual Report of the European Free Trade Association has been published. The report gives an overview of EFTA’s activities and duties throughout 2020 in the areas of managing the EEA Agreement, EFTA’s worldwide network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), and the EFTA Convention.
Undoubtedly, 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 outbreak and the way EFTA and its partners have had to operate. All meetings and events were moved online, and working from a home office became the norm. In spite of this difficult situation for everyone, the EFTA institutional framework still worked and remained fully operational.
“Whether it was expanding and developing EFTA’s worldwide free trade network or managing the continuous update of the EEA Agreement, all the governing bodies in the EFTA structure managed to deliver on their duties for the benefit of the EFTA Member States. I am both proud and thankful to all those who contributed to such a smooth changeover in unprecedented circumstances” said Henri Gétaz, EFTA Secretary-General, in the report’s foreword.
In this historic year 2020, EFTA celebrated its 60th anniversary. Considering the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, initial planned events had to be adapted to new realities and formats. However, this did not stop the celebrations to acknowledge how important EFTA has been to its members throughout the last six decades. Ministers addressed messages in videos where they underlined how EFTA has boosted international trade and facilitated economic prosperity for citizens and businesses.
In addition, a panel discussion on global trade in times of – and post – COVID-19 was held on 29 October 2020 welcoming speakers with a thorough knowledge of the global trade environment. Three young researchers were given grants by EFTA for the purpose of studying EFTA’s history, economic impact, and politics from 1960 to 2020 and beyond, and they presented their thesis at another online event for the 60th anniversary
In 2020, EFTA also pursued efforts towards the conclusion of FTAs, especially with emerging economies in the Asian and South American continents. Very few files were put on hold due to the situation, while most activities continued virtually, producing results and numerous follow-ups for 2021.
The EFTA Secretariat also dedicated considerable efforts to prepare the EEA EFTA States for the UK’s departure from the EU and the EEA, and assisted in the ongoing EEA EFTA–UK free trade negotiations. It also prepared for the move of the Brussels staff to a new office building, EFTA House, which is shared with two sister organisations working on the EEA Agreement: the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the Financial Mechanism Office.
The 2020 Annual Report describes these developments in more detail. Please note that as a green measure the report is only available in electronic PDF format.
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