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CEFTA Expansion Progresses

Current members of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) - Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Macedonia - could soon be joined by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Moldova and Montenegro, as well as by UNMIK/Kosovo, after all negotiating parties made significant progress towards amending the 13-year old text and enlarging the agreement. This was said in an official statement from Brussels posted on the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe website on September 15. The new text, known in its draft form as CEFTA 2006, is a trade agreement that incorporates new provisions such as trade in services, intellectual property rights, public procurement and investment promotion and is in line with the rules of the World Trade Organisation and with the parties’ obligations towards the EU.

Meeting for three days in Brussels, the third round of negotiations, chaired by the Stability Pact and hosted by the European Commission, made considerable progress, tackling areas such as competition, rules of origin and technical barriers to trade. Some bilateral trade issues must now be resolved before the parties meet for the final round/legal review on October 19 and 20 in Brussels, the statement said. The need to ensure the full implementation of the agreement was also discussed and parties made progress regarding the proposal to have a small secretariat to support the implementation of the agreement.

Up to now, CEFTA was the only multilateral trade agreement without an administrative body and taking into account the scale of the expansion of membership and the number of new and complex trade areas, this is now being reconsidered. At a meeting in April, the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Erhard Busek, challenged the countries of South Eastern Europe to achieve a modern, ambitious and inclusive agreement to create a Regional Free Trade Area in South Eastern Europe. Speaking at the South Eastern Europe Summit in Bucharest where negotiations on the creation of a single free trade area in South Eastern Europe were launched at the highest political level, Busek said that the summit was an excellent demonstration of political willingness of all to move forward together both economically and politically.

The summit adopted a declaration committing all countries and territories to the creation of a single free trade area in South Eastern Europe by means of enlarging and modernising the current CEFTA agreement.  The new agreement will include modern trade policy provisions on competition rules and state aid, government procurement and protection of intellectual property.  All SEE countries and territories agreed to initiate formal negotiations by May 31 this year under the auspices of the Stability Pact and to conclude them at the latest by December 31 2006.

October 17, 2006 in CEFTA (RTG) | Permalink

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