EFTA Council reviews third-country relations and horizontal trade policy issues

Published 23-03-2021
Left to right from top: Henri Gétaz, EFTA Secretary-General, Hege Marie Hoff, Deputy Secretary-General, Krisztina Bende, Director trade Relations Division, Dagfinn Sørli, Ambassador of Norway and Council Chair, Didier Chambovey, Ambassador of Switzerland, Harald Aspelund, Ambassador of Iceland, and Patrick Ritter, Deputy Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein.

On 23 March, Norway chaired the second meeting of the EFTA Council in 2021 through videoconference.

Delegates paid tribute to the Liechtenstein Ambassador to the WTO and EFTA and Council member Peter Matt, and to the former Secretary-General Per Kleppe, following their passing.

On EFTA–EU cooperation, the Council was informed of the latest developments in Brussels, such as the coordination of COVID-19 measures including the speeding-up of the vaccination process, and the upcoming EEA Council meeting. The EU Commission had also discussed national economic recovery and resilience plans with the EU Member States, expected to be finalised by April.

The Council discussed recent developments in trade negotiations with third countries including Chile. The Swiss ambassador, Didier Chambovey, also informed the Council about the recent Swiss referendum on the agreement with Indonesia and its probable impact on future EFTA agreements.

A standing item on horizontal issues linked to free trade activities was added to the Council agenda, enabling members to address the various policy elements at stake. In brief, EFTA is reviewing its technical cooperation activities and format and aims to streamline its reaction in case of trade barriers. Moreover, EFTA is developing an instrument to monitor the utilisation of its numerous agreements in place as well as its chapter on trade and sustainable development. Discussions are also ongoing on the issue of sustainability impact assessments of free trade agreements

The Secretariat informed the Council on the developments of the EFTA House relocation project, indicating that the project would be completed by the end of March 2021. Furthermore, Member States discussed a possible programme for the EFTA Ministerial meeting to be held on 31 May.

Further information on the Council Chairmanship can be found on the EFTA website.

The Council Conclusions are available after the Council meetings on the EFTA public journal.


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