Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson Minister for Foreign Affairs participated in the biannual Ministerial meeting of the European Free Trade Association, EFTA, in Geneva on 17 November. The Ministers took stock of current EFTA‘s free trade negotiations and discussed the possibility of negotiations with more states. They also met with Ambassador Michael Punke, , Deputy U.S. Trade Representative to pursue a trade policy dialogue with the U.S. and exchange information on the status of negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Minister Sveinsson informed his fellow ministers about his recent visit to Brazil and constructive talks with Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figuereido last October, where the two Ministers discussed possibilities of free trade negotiations between EFTA and MERCOSUR, comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. EFTA and MERCOSUR signed a declaration of cooperation in in 2000.
The EFTA Ministers welcomed the announcement of a breakthrough between India and the United States which paves the way for the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the rest of the Bali package. This development represents a significant step in efforts to restore confidence in the multilateral trading system.
The Ministers met with Ms Maria Luisa Flores, Vice Minister of Economy of Guatemala, to discuss the development of closer trade relations between the two sides in view of Guatemala's forthcoming accession to the EFTA-Central America Free Trade Agreement.
Ministers took stock of the state of play in EFTA's free trade negotiations with India and confirmed their readiness to conclude talks as soon as possible. With regard to the negotiations with Indonesia, they expressed their willingness to move forward at the earliest opportunity. They reviewed progress to date in the negotiations with Malaysia and Vietnam and reaffirmed EFTA's commitment to advancing these talks. They also noted that the negotiating process with the countries of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan remains on hold.
Ministers agreed to continue evaluating the situation for a possible resumption of the processes with Algeria and Thailand. They expressed satisfaction with the imminent start of negotiations on a free trade agreement with the Philippines and expressed their intention to start negotiations with Georgia within a timeframe to be agreed upon. They stressed the importance of updating and further developing existing trade agreements, including the agreement with Turkey, Canada and Mexico.