Free trade agreements are of enormous importance for the foreign trade of the European Union (EU). There are currently 42 free trade agreements of the EU existing with 73 different partners. The EU commission stated in a report from 21 November 2019 that 16 new free trade agreements were concluded in the last five years alone, the latest being the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore (EUSFTA) which was enforced on that same day. In times of growing protectionism, the EU sees an important message for an open and fair-trade market in these new agreements.
After the EU Parliament had agreed on the Trade and Investment agreement with Vietnam (EVFTA) in February 2020 the European Council adopted a decision on the conclusion of the FTA on 30 March 2020. On the EU-side this decision clears the path for the entry into force of the agreement. It is scheduled for the early summer of 2020. The agreement is the most comprehensive trade agreement with a developing country so far and it will remove all duties that currently still exist on the trade of goods between both parties within a few years. It defines high standards in work, as well as environmental and consumer protection for all trades and investments (press release of 12 February 2020).
By enforcing the free trade agreement of the EU with Japan (JEFTA), which has been in force since 1 February 2019, the world’s largest bilateral trading zone was created. This agreement also agrees on high common standards in the fields of work, security climate and consumer protection and it is the first commitment to the Paris climate protection agreement. When this agreement is fully implemented, 97% of the EU exports to Japan will be free of duty. The German commercial and industrial chamber in Japan reported in a press release from 31 January 2020 of an export growth in all areas and on both sides of the German Japanese trade relations.
The just-completed free trade agreement of the EU with Singapore (EUSTFA) is the first bilateral agreement of the EU with an East Asian Country. Singapore is the largest trade partner of the EU in the ASEAN region. A cumulation of rules of origin within the ASEAN region is possible by this agreement which means that goods manufactured in Singapore are duty-free even if the primary materials are from different states of the ASEAN region. By fully implementing this agreement, Singapore will eliminate all remaining duties on goods from the EU. This agreement provides new market opportunities not only for manufactures of goods but also for European service providers in areas such as telecommunication.
Formal preference certificates such as the movement certificate EUR.1 are no longer provided by the new agreements of the EU with Canada and Japan. Both agreements define the preferential validated method on the European side by declarations of origin of a registered exporter. This procedure is a simplification for the European exporters since it only requires one registration process and no formal permitting procedure as it does for the “approved exporter” who is provided in the simplified verification process of other free trade agreements.
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