Thank you chair,
Iceland would like to welcome the distinguished delegation of the European Union to their fourteenth trade policy review lead by Sabine Weyand, Director-General, and I look forward to the discussions today. We would like to thank both the WTO Secretariat, as well as the European Commission, for the reports prepared for this trade policy review, and the discussant, Ambassador Alexandre Guido Lopes Parola, of Brazil, for his clear and concise overview for our discussion today.
It is of particular interest for Iceland to take part in the trade policy review of the European Union. Iceland enjoys very deep trade relations with the EU under the Agreement on the European Economic Area, the EEA Agreement, and we have a long history of strong economic cooperation. Under the EEA Agreement, Iceland is part of the internal market of the European Union and participates in the EU’s internal harmonization of rules. We do that while not being a member of the Customs Union of the EU.
Tariffs on industrial products in trade between Iceland and the EU have been abolished. Our trade arrangement for agricultural products is quite liberal and has recently been updated. Iceland is satisfied with the current level of market access for such products.
That leaves us with fish. While tariffs have been abolished on most fish products in trade between Iceland and the EU, a large number of Icelandic fish products are still subject to tariffs arrangements, such as tariff reductions or tariff quotas, upon imports to the EU. Such tariff arrangements continue to distort our trade in such products imported from Iceland, while EU enjoys tariff free imports for all its fisheries products exported to Iceland.
Iceland would therefore like to reiterate its request to the EU to eliminate all remaining tariffs on Icelandic fisheries products into the EU. Our key rationale is the following:
Firstly, non-discrimination: The EU policy has shifted considerably in recent years towards full market access for fisheries products from third countries into the EU. Under the EU´s recent FTAs, tariffs have been eliminated of all fish products from Canada, Japan, Vietnam and Mercosur and the same has been offered to current negotiating partners such as New Zealand and Australia. But still refuses to offer it to one of its closest partner, Iceland, which goes much further than any of these partners in harmonizing it rules with the rules of the EU. Another fact that makes Iceland also different from these partners, is that fish is by far the most important goods sector in Iceland’s exports.
Secondly, economic interests of the EU: To the EU, Iceland is one of the most important trading partner, when it comes to fish imports. The EU is a major importer of seafood – with self-sufficiency rate of only 41% - with future consumption of fish products expected to increase substantially (less meat, more fish).
Thirdly, environmental benefits: Iceland´s fisheries are sustainable and therefore environmentally friendly. Furthermore, as Iceland in close geographical proximity with the EU market, imports of fish products from Iceland have lower carbon footprint than from countries that are further away from the EU market.
Fourthly, the streamlining of current trade arrangements: Current trade arrangements between Iceland and the EU for fish products are not user friendly. They are governed by too many instruments and conditions such as tariff reductions and tariff quotas, without fully liberalizing trade in these products. These arrangements result in additional tariffs and administrative costs for imports of such products.
And finally, Iceland is among the EU’s closest partners. The EEA Agreement is the deepest and most comprehensive agreement the EU has concluded with other countries. The current trade regime for fish products is no longer justifiable. Finding a solution is a win-win for both parties.
In closing I would like to turn to a subject that is particularly close to my heart. The European Union played an important role in the adoption and implementation of the Buenos Aires Declaration of Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment adopted at the MC11. We welcome the focus the EU places on gender equality and the economic empowerment of women. We also applaud the EU for integrating specific provisions on trade and gender equality in recent trade negotiations.
As mentioned in the report of the Secretariat gender issues have begun to figure more prominently in EU trade policy, including analysis on how to improve the understanding of the impact of international trade agreements on gender equality. Iceland looks forward to further cooperation on this matter with the EU.
Finally, allow me to complement the whole EU team for the enormous work they have put into their TPR and my delegation wishes the EU all the success.