At the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA) meeting on 08 November the European Union (EU) and Japan presented WTO members with the details of their new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which entered into force on 01 February, while Turkey and Singapore also outlined to WTO members details of their new free trade agreement (FTA).
The presentations were made as part of the WTO's Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs.) Under this process, WTO members notify the WTO about their RTAs and the agreements are discussed by the wider WTO membership based on a factual presentation prepared by the WTO Secretariat.
European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement
The EU-Japan EPA establishes a free trade area for trade in goods and services. The agreement also contains provisions related to government procurement, investment liberalisation, intellectual property, competition policy, subsidies, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), regulatory cooperation, trade and sustainable development, cooperation in the field of agriculture, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs), and a dispute settlement mechanism.
The WTO Secretariat's factual presentation on the EU-Japan FTA was circulated to WTO members on 12 August 2019.
Representatives from the EU and Japan told the CRTA that the EPA was not only important for themselves but for the multilateral trading system. Japan said the agreement “demonstrates our firm political will to keep the flag of free and fair-trade waving high”.
Japan said it expected the agreement to boost its gross domestic product (GDP) by 1% and to boost domestic employment by 0.5%. The EU said the deal substantially liberalised trade between the two, with 94% of Japan's customs duties on EU imports having been eliminated from 01 February 2019 and a further 3% of tariff lines partially liberated through quotas. The EU for its part is liberalising 99% of its tariff lines, with trade in autos to be fully liberalized within seven years.
Both the EU and Japan noted that, in addition to liberalising trade, the agreement reflects common values by addressing issues such as labour rights, safeguarding public services, data protection, corporate social responsibility, and the need to tackle climate change.
Several members thanked the EU and Japan for their presentation and for participating in the transparency exercise.
Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement
The Turkey-Singapore FTA aims to liberalise and facilitate trade and investment between the two parties. The FTA consists of 18 chapters, including trade in goods and services, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, customs and trade, electronic commerce, and government procurement.
The WTO Secretariat's factual presentation on the Turkey-Singapore FTA was circulated to WTO members on 12 August 2019.
Turkey told WTO members that its FTA with Singapore, the third in the region after deals with Malaysia and Korea, would lead to the gradual liberalisation for all goods and services. Duties on 8% of tariff lines were eliminated immediately and will eventually increase to 95% over 10 years. The FTA with Singapore is the first concluded by Turkey covering government procurement, Turkey noted.
Singapore said the FTA had boosted economic ties between the two partners, with bilateral trade now exceeding U$1 billion per year. Singapore highlighted that the chapter on trade in services would open services markets in sectors such as retail business and construction, and that the deal ensures protection of investments.
Several members thanked Turkey and Singapore for responding to written questions about the FTA and for participating in the transparency exercise.
The next meeting of the CRTA is tentatively scheduled for 07 to 08 April 2020.
Story by: Riaan de Lange