On 21 November 2016, EFTA held its biannual Ministerial Meeting in Geneva. The meeting was chaired by Ms. Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade. The Norwegian delegation was headed by Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms. Monica Mæland.
EFTA ministers reiterated their keen interest in concluding free trade agreements with India and Indonesia in 2017. Concluding these two agreements would secure improved market access to two growing economies with large domestic markets and constitutes a key objective for EFTA. At the same time, the ministers affirmed EFTA’s commitment to advancing negotiations with Malaysia and Vietnam with the aim of concluding as soon as possible.
“I wish to conclude the negotiations with India as soon as possible. It’s a large economy with a growing domestic market. It’s important that Norway is among those who early concludes such a free trade agreement with India. We are also committed to Southeast Asia. Further, the negotiations with Indonesia and Malaysia are important to us. They are both members of ASEAN, and our long term goal is a free trade agreement with ASEAN” said minister Mæland.
The EFTA Ministers also welcomed the conclusion of the exploratory talks with the Mercosur States, paving the way for possible free trade negotiations in the summer of 2017.
“Norway and EFTA have over a long period of time wished to strengthen our relations with Mercosur. This has been a priority for the Norwegian government. I am therefore pleased that we can start negotiations next year on a free trade agreement” said minister Mæland.
“Brexit” was also a topic of discussion during the Ministerial Meeting. The EFTA Ministers emphasized the importance of maintaining close economic and trade relations with the United Kingdom as an important trading partner of the EFTA countries. The Ministers also underlined the importance of stability and predictability in a transition to a new legal framework for economic relations with the United Kingdom and to preserve the current conditions for economic exchange and cooperation.
“The United Kingdom is perhaps our single most important economic partner. It is in Norway´s interest to maintain our close trade policy cooperation with the UK at the same level as we have today “ said minister Mæland.
Other issues on the agenda for the Ministerial Meeting were current trade negotiations with Vietnam and Ecuador.
For further information about the ministerial meeting see EFTA’s press communiqué.
For further information about EFTA see EFTA’s webpage.