World Trade Organization (WTO) members considered two Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) at the meeting of the Committee on RTAs on 22 September 2020. Members reviewed the trade in services aspect of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Armenia and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and Israel.
The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the EU and Armenia provisionally entered into force on 01 June 2018. It contains commitments on market access in the services sector in addition to commitments under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The EU and Armenia also agreed on obligations on government procurement, intellectual property, competition, environment and labour, e-commerce, and small and medium sized enterprises.
Armenia said developing a partnership with the EU was among its key foreign policy objectives, noting that the EU was its second-largest trading partner both in terms of exports and imports. Armenia said the agreement would help it sell more services to Europe and also encourage EU enterprises to expand into Armenia.
The EU said the agreement enhanced the potential for increased trade in services as commitments cover computer services, postal and telecommunications services, construction and engineering. The EU added that both parties to the agreement are focused on ensuring its effective implementation so that businesses and consumers can avail themselves of its benefits.
The Free Trade Agreement between MERCOSUR and Israel was also considered at the meeting. Under the agreement, which was fully implemented by 01 January 2020, Israel liberalized more than 90% of its tariff lines for imports from MERCOSUR states (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) while MERCOSUR liberalized more than 95% of its tariff lines for imports from Israel.
Israel - who spoke also on behalf of MERCOSUR - said the agreement aimed to eliminate barriers to trade, facilitate the movement of goods, promote conditions of fair competition in the free trade area, increase investment opportunities and increase co-operation in areas of mutual interest. Israel said there was room to improve trade volumes, noting that as of 2017, the four MERCOSUR states were Israel's eighth largest destination for exports and the 18th largest source of imports. Conversely, Israel was MERCOSUR's 40th largest destination for exports and 28th largest source of imports. Effective implementation of the agreement, Israel said, would boost the economies of all parties and improve the business environment.
Implementation of the RTA Transparency Mechanism
The Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Mārtinš Kreitus of Latvia, noted that the WTO Secretariat had received notifications for the EU-Viet Nam FTA and, since the meeting was convened, the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America, and the United Mexican States (USMCA/CUSMA/T-MEC).
The Chair further noted that 54 RTAs had still not been notified to the WTO. In addition, there are 19 RTAs involving WTO members and 23 involving non-members for which a factual presentation has to be prepared, counting goods and services separately. The Chair said he had held consultations with delegations for which the RTA factual consideration remained delayed due to the lack of comments or data from the members involved.
The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for November 18-19, 2020.
Story by: Riaan de Lange