"It is always a pleasure to meet with the advisory bodies and we are very fortunate at EFTA to have this regular dialogue with you," Minister Isaksen said in his opening remarks.
The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the EFTA advisory bodies' proposals for amendments to the trade and sustainable development (TSD) chapter in EFTA free trade agreements that is currently being revised by the EFTA States. The draft TSD chapter was presented for the first time to the EFTA advisory bodies in Malbun, Liechtenstein in June 2019. Last month, the chairs of the two advisory bodies sent letters on behalf of their committees to the EFTA Ministers outlining their proposals for further improving the chapter.
“It is important that mechanisms are introduced which ensure a more systematic involvement of the EFTA advisory bodies and civil society stakeholders in the implementation of the new TSD chapter. We had a good discussion with the Ministerial Chair of the EFTA Council on this” said Halldor Grönvold, Chair of the EFTA Consultative Committee.
The advisory bodies congratulated the Ministers on the conclusion of the negotiations of a free trade agreement with the Mercosur countries. The EFTA parliamentarians and social partners were presented for the first time with the content of the agreement and were given the possibility to exchange views with ministers on this important milestone in EFTA trade policy. They also discussed the latest developments on third-country relations and the opening of negotiations for modernising the free trade agreement with Chile. Finally, an exchange of views on the future relations with the United Kingdom after its departure from the European Union also took place.
"The Mercosur deal is very important for us and a possible game-changer, which would open up markets with a combined population of almost 300 million to our exporters," Isaksen said.
“We are very proud that this agreement also contains strong provisions on environmental and labour standards, including commitments regarding the sustainable management of forests and the fight against illegal logging. In the Agreement, the countries have also reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
The EFTA PC and the EFTA CC are EFTA's advisory bodies. The EFTA PC is a forum of parliamentarians from the four EFTA countries, while the EFTA CC brings together representatives of the trade union confederations and employers’ associations in the four EFTA countries. The mission of both advisory bodies is to scrutinise and provide advice on the EFTA States’ trade relations with third countries as well as on the relations with the EU through the implementation of the EEA Agreement. Both advisory bodies are vital platforms for dialogue and consultation on social, economic and political aspects of the EFTA free trade agreements and the functioning of the EEA.
"We firmly believe that in today's world there is a need to exchange views, to discuss and coordinate. There is also a need to communicate decisions to the citizens and for this we have a decisive role to play," Icelandic MP Smári McCarthy said, as co-Chair of the meeting.
Mindful of the mandate of the EFTA PC, he added:
“In order for us to fulfil this mandate, we need to meet regularly with the EFTA Council at ministerial level. The discussion we had earlier on the new model text on trade and sustainable development illustrates this need well. It is always better if we can play our advisory role during ongoing processes rather than once a decision has already been taken.”
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