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4th Euromed Trade Ministerial Conference - 21 july Istanbul - Conclusions

The Fourth Euro-Mediterranean Trade Ministerial Conference took place in Istanbul, Turkey on 21 July 2004. This Conference aimed to advance the trade agenda of the Barcelona Process, by building on the progress made at the three previous Euromed Trade Ministers’ meetings in Brussels (2001), Toledo (2002) and Palermo (2003). The Istanbul meeting allowed Ministers both to review the results thus achieved within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, as well as to outline an agenda for future work.

Ministers re-affirmed their adherence to the fundamental principles of the Barcelona Declaration. They upheld their commitment to pursue the economic development of the Mediterranean region through the partnership arrangements of the Euro-Med process, working towards greater regional integration and open markets. They took stock of several achievements since their last meeting, and confirmed their commitment to undertake concrete steps to deepen trade liberalisation, and thus contribute to the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area.

1. Ministers expressed their satisfaction with several positive developments concerning the conclusion of bilateral and regional agreements in the Mediterranean region. Regarding the state of play of Euromed Association Agreements, the agreement with Egypt entered into force in June 2004 and negotiations with Syria are at a very advanced stage. Once the agreement with Algeria will have entered into force, the spectrum of North-South agreements in the region will be complete. The two former Med partners, Malta and Cyprus, became EU members in May 2004.

As for the South-South dimension, Trade Ministers welcomed the February 2004 signing of the Arab-Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement (“Agadir Agreement”), between Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt. They voiced support for the idea of other Med countries acceding to the regional free trade area thus established, as part of strengthening ongoing progress in Med integration. Ministers also took note of developments in the negotiation of bilateral free trade agreements. These include the signature of Free Trade Agreements between Morocco and Turkey in April 2004, and between Turkey and the Palestinian Authority in July 2004. They also noted progress in negotiations between Turkey and Tunisia as well as between Turkey and Lebanon, and the start of negotiations between Syria and Turkey in May.

All these steps contribute to the development of the network of Free Trade Agreements in the Med region, increasingly involving the South-South dimension of the Barcelona Process. Ministers expressed commitment to carry on with this effort, with a view to stimulating investment and making concrete progress toward the 2010 objective of a Euro-Med Free Trade Area.

2. Following the work launched at the Toledo Ministerial in 2002 on trade facilitation, Euromed Ministers viewed progress in the implementation of the recommendations adopted in Palermo in 2003 for the simplification of customs procedures. These measures aim to modernise and facilitate essential aspects of customs clearance and improve transparency for the benefit of economic operators. Most Med countries were already engaged in programs of customs reform. The Palermo recommendations should however be considered as priority measures to provide guidance and coordination, and to further contribute to the elimination of non-tariff costs, strengthen regional integration, and support ongoing WTO work in this field.

Ministers welcomed the progress report of the Working Group on Trade Facilitation charged with evaluating the implementation of the Palermo measures. They noted that significant progress has been made in, for example, the automation and acceleration of customs procedures, use of electronic interchange systems (including means of signature and payment), and the adoption of a single document for customs clearance in many Med countries. On the other hand, in areas such as administrative co-operation, reform efforts need to continue and gain added focus in order to increase transparency and to better highlight current practices. Ministers encouraged Med countries to pursue, and indeed intensify, their reform efforts in this domain and considered the Working Group to have fulfilled its mandate.

3. Regarding the implementation of the pan-Euro-Med Protocol on rules of origin endorsed a year earlier in Palermo, the procedure of replacement of the Protocol in the existing Association Agreements is well advanced. Ministers re-affirmed the need for Med countries to conclude FTAs with one another and also with the other pan-European countries in order to have identical rules of origin in force between them. In this respect, they welcomed the inclusion of the new pan-Euro-Med Protocol in the Arab-Mediterranean FTA (“Agadir”). When operational, cumulation of origin, as provided for by the Protocol, will improve market access for economic operators, increase incentives for investment and strengthen regional integration between pan-Euro-Med partners.

Ministers exchanged views on the challenges faced by the Euromed textile industry arising from the elimination of MFA quotas in 2005. They underlined the necessity to accelerate the implementation of the Pan-euro-med Protocol on origin. Following Tunisia’s proposal, it was agreed that the Pan-euro-med Protocol on origin could be temporarily implemented as soon as an FTA is initialled. This pragmatic solution will be submitted to the other Pan-euro-med partners.
Furthermore, Ministers welcomed the proposal by Tunisia to organise a Ministerial Conference on the textiles and clothing sector and invited Euro-Mediterranean Partners to accord the required attention to this meeting.

4. Euromed Ministers reviewed the progress carried out in the Working Group on services. They reiterated their commitment to liberalisation in this important sector and to the ultimate aim of complementing the Euromed liberalisation of trade in goods with an integrated free trade area for services. They reconfirmed their adherence to the Palermo approach and to its core principles, including regional integration.
Ministers endorsed the Istanbul Framework Protocol as a non-binding document that can provide a basis for economic integration agreements in the sense of Article V GATS. These agreements will be initiated among Euromed partners on the basis of formal negotiation directives to be adopted by the different parties.

5. Concerning the approximation of legislation in the field of standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures, Ministers acknowledged the substantial progress made in the Working Group. A number of Med countries have identified their priority sectors and all have started becoming acquainted with the EU legislative approach. Ministers re-affirmed their support for the Six Point Work Programme within which work is taking place, recognising the fruitful and forward-looking dialogue that has propelled the process in the first steps of the Programme.

Ministers prompted the Working Group to press ahead with the Work Programme, including the necessary bilateral steps in order to facilitate the approximation by Med partners of the necessary framework and sectoral legislation for the priority sectors. They invited the Working Group to present a progress report at the next Euromed Trade Ministerial Conference. They also signalled their intent to make full use of ongoing and future technical assistance programmes to complement the work done in the Working Group.

6. Euromed Ministers exchanged views on the new European Neighbourhood Policy, a key policy development since the recent EU enlargement. They confirmed their support to this policy approach and noted that the formulation of Action Plans with several Mediterranean partners is nearing conclusion. They underlined the importance of consistency between the Neighbourhood Policy and the Barcelona process. Ministers welcomed the possibility under the Action Plans of forging ahead with closer integration in trade policy and regulatory areas, a process to be managed within the institutional set-up of the Association Agreements and in conformity with the principles of the Euromed partnership.

7. Euromed Ministers reiterated their commitment to a successful conclusion of the WTO DDA negotiations covering both improved market access and stronger WTO rules. They confirmed their determination to jointly work towards a balanced agreement on the modalities for the key areas of the negotiations by the end of July 2004. Ministers also noted the positive impact of the WTO round on the Euromed Partnership and the economy and trade of the south Mediterranean countries. Finally, they took note of Tunisia’s offer to organise a ministerial conference on Trade Facilitation in the multilateral framework.

8. Ministers agreed to convene again in late-2005 at the Fifth Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference.

Brussels,07 27 2004
European Union
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