Free Trade Coverage For EFTA Exports Quadruples

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

01 November 2016

The share of merchandise exports covered by the European Free Trade Association’s (EFTA’s) free trade agreements rose from three percent of the total exports in 2006 to 12.4 percent in 2015, EFTA has announced.

According to EFTA, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, the increase indicates “the substantial and growing contribution made by the FTAs,” with one third of the increase due to the higher growth rate of trade with FTA partners and the remainder due to the expansion of the grouping’s FTA network.

Switzerland’s share of exports to EFTA’s free trade partners rose from 4.2 percent to 15.6 percent over the period in question. Meanwhile, Norway’s share increased from 1.6 percent to six percent, and Iceland’s share increased more than tenfold over the same period, from 0.3 percent to 3.6 percent.

The figures were revealed in an EFTA note prepared in response to a request from the EFTA Parliamentary Committee.

The note covers all of EFTA’s FTAs, but focuses in particular on Canada, Chile, Korea, the Southern African Customs Union, and Singapore.

Excluding its trade agreement with the European Union, EFTA currently has 27 FTAs covering trade relations with 38 partners, providing companies based in EFTA with tariff-free or reduced-tariff access to markets with a total population of 870m people. More than half of EFTA’s current FTAs were signed in the last decade.

EFTA’s data shows that while merchandise exports to EFTA’s free trade partners has increased, its share of exports to the EU has declined, from 71 percent to 62 percent.

Similarly, the share of EFTA’s merchandise imports from its FTA partners increased fivefold in the last decade, from EUR2.5bn (USD2.75bn), or 1.5 percent of imports in 2006, to EUR17.9bn (7.5 percent) in 2015, whilst imports from the EU saw a relative decline over the same period, from EUR127bn (75 percent of imports) to EUR161bn (68 percent).

“The fact that in the last decade EFTA exports have expanded by 65 percent while the value of global trade has increased by 36 percent is a testament to the competitiveness and dynamism of EFTA’s export sectors,” the EFTA note said.

“The overall strong performance of exports to the FTA partners is an indication that the ambitious expansion of EFTA’s FTA network has been met with some success. Going forward, updating old agreements and concluding new agreements with important trade partners such as India and Vietnam will further increase the FTA network’s benefits for EFTA exporters,” the note concludes.

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