Customs Union continues to work on free trade zone with EFTA countries
The Customs Union continues to work on creating the free trade zone with the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Alexander Guryanov said at a seminar on topical issues of foreign trade in the context of the Customs Union.
“We are working on the free trade zone with the EFTA. We have already held three rounds of talks,” said Alexander Guryanov. He stressed that this European association was one of the first to pay attention to the Customs Union and start negotiations with the countries of the Customs Union to create the free trade zone.
Currently the work on the formation of the single customs territory is nearing completion. This work involves harmonizing the trade regimes of the Customs Union with other states. For these purposes the member states have formed three delegations to negotiate uniform rules for trade with foreign counterparts. “As of today we agreed and harmonized trade regimes with Serbia and Montenegro. Trade of the Customs Union member states with these countries implies a free trade regime, and we need to take advantage of this,” Alexander Guryanov said.
Another state who paid attention to the Customs Union was New Zealand. Talks on a free trade area have already been held with that country. The Customs Union has also held negotiations with the Syrian Arab Republic, Vietnam, Egypt, and Mongolia. A number of requests have been received from other states. Thus, stressed Alexander Guryanov, these facts are evidence of the interest of foreign partners in the Customs Union. “Using the strength of the Customs Union, we, even without participating in the World Trade Organization, are establishing free trade relations with our main partners from third countries,” said Alexander Guryanov.
The Customs Union member states are also completing the procedures to coordinate the free trade regime with the CIS countries. The free trade agreement signed in the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1994 had been in force until the establishment of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space. Now the Customs Union Troika needs to get ready for signing a new agreement within the CIS. Alexander Guryanov expressed confidence that the Customs Union member states would be able to coordinate the new agreement to preserve and further develop trade relations with the CIS taking into account the universal free trade principles.
In his words, the agreement between the Customs Union and the CIS has been elaborated taking into account many of the WTO rules. Therefore the document will be “more advanced and efficient for protection of Belarus’ trade and economic interests”.
When the idea to set up the Customs Union was announced, very few believed it will work out. “Western partners had considerable doubts, believing we were moving too fast, making many mistakes,” Alexander Guryanov added. Today the Customs Union is an objective reality, with many countries showing interest in simplified trade and free trade agreements.