Preferential Trade updates August 2023

August 22, 2023

China, Nicaragua substantively complete FTA negotiations

Chinese Minister of Commerce and Nicaragua’s Minister of Development, Industry and Trade announced that the two countries have substantively completed their free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. The announcement was made when the two ministers met via video link. The two sides have agreed to step up relevant technical preparations and fulfill domestic ratification procedures in order to sign and implement the agreement at an early date, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

As an important measure to implement the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, the FTA will provide an institutional guarantee for bilateral economic and trade exchanges, help elevate bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and promote the greater development of bilateral relations in the new era.

EU and the Philippines to start scoping exercise for a free trade agreement

The EU and the Philippines announced their intention to explore the relaunch of negotiations for an ambitious, modern, and balanced free trade agreement (FTA) – with sustainability at its core. The EU and the Philippines will shortly kick off a bilateral ‘scoping process’ to assess to which extent they share a mutual understanding on the future FTA. If this process concludes successfully, and after consultations with the Member States, the EU and the Philippines would be in a position to resume FTA negotiations.

India-UK FTA talks may conclude as early as September

India is aiming to close negotiations in the India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) as early as September, when the next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place between the two countries during the trade and investment working group meeting on August 24 and 25. As of July 28, the countries had achieved a broad consensus on trade of goods especially on the prickly issues of whiskey and automobiles. As many as 19 chapters of the total 26 have also been closed. Another round is underway at present from August 8 and will continue till August 25. The government may exceed it if needed, Nidhi Mani Tripathi, Chief Negotiator of the India-UK FTA said during a press briefing on August 14.

Indonesia sees opening to conclude long-awaited trade deal with EU

Indonesia is currently negotiating a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with the EU. Talks first began in July 2016, and have already reached 15 rounds of negotiations to this day. Indonesia aims to wrap up the negotiations by the end of this year. The EU Deforestation-Free Regulation (EUDR) has caused a setback for Europe’s ties with palm oil-producing Indonesia. However, the EU, Indonesia, and fellow palm oil producer Malaysia recently agreed to establish an ad hoc joint task force on the EUDR. This task force aims to identify the best possible solution to the anti-deforestation law.

Portugal announces withdrawal from Energy Charter Treaty

Portugal’s Environment Minister announced that the country has started withdrawing from the Energy Charter Treaty, in line with a proposal tabled by the European Commission two weeks ago. The Energy Charter Treaty is a multilateral convention signed by 53 European and Asian countries and has been in force since 1998. It allows companies in the energy sector to sue countries whose legislation puts their investments at risk.

Russia includes Morocco in a North African free trade zone project

A few days after the Russia-Africa Summit, Russia has announced that it is working on a free trade agreement with several North African countries, including Morocco. During a meeting with his Cabinet of Ministers, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his intention to sign free trade agreements with several North African countries, namely Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. According to the TASS press agency, the President of the Russian Federation has set himself the goal of transforming the existing political trust between Moscow and the North African countries into economic cooperation.

Taiwan, Britain to start trade talks

Taiwan and the UK are to begin official-level talks on an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) in three key areas with the aim of signing a memorandum of understanding. The ETP is to focus on two-way investment, digital trade, energy and net zero. Taiwan is the third country with which the UK is pursuing an ETP, after India and Thailand. The ultimate goal of an ETP is the signing of a free-trade agreement (FTA), but the process might not be as smooth as expected.

Thailand signs mini-FTA with Yunnan province in southwest China

Thailand’s Commerce Ministry has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form deeper trade partnerships through a mini free trade agreement (mini-FTA) between Thailand and Yunnan province in southwest China. The MoU was signed by director-general at Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion and Director General of the Commerce Department of Yunnan Province, China at Kunming of Yunnan province. This is Thailand’s 8th mini-FTA and the country is eying more trade cooperations with minor cities after the previous mini-FTAs resulted in a significant growth of Thai exports. Thailand currently has seven mini-FTAs in place, with Hainan, China; Kofu, Japan; Telangana, India; Gansu, China; Busan and Gyeonggi, South Korea; and Shenzhen of China.

The UK joined Asia-Pacific trade bloc CPTPP

n July 2023, the UK formally agreed to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an Asia-Pacific trade bloc made up of 11 other countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Other countries (including China) have applied to join or expressed an interest in doing so. The UK will be the first new member since the bloc was established in 2018 and the first European member.

US escalates trade dispute over GM corn, challenges Mexico’s food sovereignty

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) office escalated its complaint against Mexico’s ban on genetically modified (GM) corn, asserting it as a potential violation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). USTR filed a request for the formation of a dispute resolution panel under the USCMA framework. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has analyzed the USMCA and believes that USTR is exaggerating the economic impacts on U.S. producers and that the agreement permits such precautionary policies to protect public health and the environment.


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