Brussels, 10 June 2010 - EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Palestinian Minister of National Economy Hasan Abu-Libdeh discussed measures to enhance EU-Palestinian bilateral trade relations and to facilitate trade of Palestinian products to EU markets
Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: "The European Commission is expected to propose granting duty-free quota-free access for Palestinian exports to the EU in the coming months. This would improve the access of Palestinian exports to EU markets beyond our current free trade agreement and it would help to revamp the private sector. The EU will also continue to support the Palestinian request to become an observer to the World Trade Organisation as a first step towards integration into the multilateral trading system and a key part of the state-building process."
Minister Abu-Libdeh added: "Improving Palestinian access to the European Market, including facilitation of Palestinian trade with Euromed partners, is an integral part of the statebuilding process which we are undergoing with the assistance and guidance of close friends such as the EU. It is important here to clearly state that the EC and member states are the leading partners in both the institutional building for statehood, as well as support for the private sector in doing business within a globalized economy, and especially in sustaining the Palestinian private sector in Gaza severely affected by the blockade on the Gaza Strip."
Commissioner De Gucht and Minister Abu-Libdeh continue to work towards a comprehensive package of measures aimed at facilitating the trade of Palestinian products with other Euro-Mediterranean partners on a bilateral and regional basis by 2010. One of these measures will be the European Commission's proposal to grant duty free quota free access for Palestinian exports to EU markets. They also stressed that they would continue to work towards the strengthening of the capabilities of the Palestinian administration in view of the future deepening of trade liberalisation in goods and services. Preparations continue for future negotiations on an agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) in selected sectors. The Palestine Standards Institute, the Ministry of National Economy, the Custom Authorities, among others, will benefit from targeted technical assistance.
The Palestinian Authority and the EU have concluded a Euro-Mediterranean Interim Association Agreement which is in force since 1997. The agreement provides for duty-free access to EU markets for Palestinian industrial goods, and a phase-out of tariffs on EU exports to Palestine over five years. The Agreement also foresaw a gradual liberalisation for certain agricultural and fisheries products. A European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan was signed with the Palestinian Authority in 2004 which includes non binding commitments in regulatory areas across the board from economic and trade to political, energy or transport issues. The Palestinian Authority is by far the smallest trading partner for the EU in the Mediterranean region, with total trade amounting to no more than €71 million in 2008 or less than one fifth of our total aid programme for the year.