The EFTA Parliamentary Committee (EFTA PC) and the EFTA Consultative Committee (EFTA CC) convened on 7 and 8 February in Geneva to exchange views on global trade and EFTA’s trade outlook for 2024.
The Co-chairs of the meetings, Thomas Aeschi (Swiss Parliament) and Sigríður Mogensen (Federation of Icelandic Industries), led the discussions, which focused on prospective international digital rules, the forthcoming 13th WTO Ministerial meeting, prospects for an EFTA–Mercosur free trade agreement, China’s commitment to the multilateral trading system and inclusive trade.
At a time where major actors have taken bold policy shifts in advancing green policies and developments in technology, members assessed ways to ensure that trade remains a catalyst for economic development and prosperity for all with Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
She stressed: “Following recent crises, we acknowledge that it has been difficult for countries to bounce back. Trade and investment have never properly recovered, and with rising interest rates, 3.3 billion people live in countries that are spending more money on debt instead of investing in health and education”.
As convinced proponents of a multilateral trading system rooted in rules, the EFTA parliamentarians and social partners discussed WTO reform prospects with H.E. Li Chenggang, Chinese Ambassador to the WTO.
He referred to recent natural disasters, the pandemic and geopolitical tensions that had led to greater protectionism. This created additional costs and hindered the development of the global economy. It was particularly problematic for developing countries and SMEs to integrate into global value chains and grasp the benefits of trade.
The committees also held an exchange of views with the four EFTA States’ Permanent Representatives to the WTO, with the Ambassadors presenting their expectations and priorities ahead of the 13th WTO Ministerial meeting scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi from 26 to 29 February 2024.
As EFTA strives to conclude a free trade agreement with the Mercosur countries, the committees assessed the remaining work with the Ambassadors to the WTO of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The Chair of the EFTA PC announced the delegation visit to Argentina and Brazil planned for 18 to 22 March 2024.
Finally, the committees held their annual meeting with the EFTA Committee on Third Country Relations (TCC) to review EFTA’s third-country agenda for 2024. The TCC is composed of high-level trade officials of the four EFTA States in charge of steering negotiations and advancing EFTA’s third-country agenda. The meeting offered the opportunity to shape strategic priorities for 2024 and to address specific ongoing projects.
The EFTA PC is a forum of parliamentarians from the four EFTA States, while the EFTA CC brings together representatives of the EFTA States’ trade union confederations and employers’ associations. The mission of these advisory bodies is to scrutinise and advise on the EFTA’s trade relations with third countries, as well as on relations with the EU through the implementation of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement). Both advisory bodies are vital platforms for dialogue and consultation on the social, economic, and political aspects of EFTA free trade agreements and the functioning of the EEA Agreement.
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