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EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade Formation)

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 15 March 2012

The Trade Formation of the EU Foreign Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on Friday 16 March 2012. I will represent the UK for all the items on the agenda.

The first two substantive agenda items involve “legislative deliberations”. Following a presentation by the trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, Ministers will discuss the proposal for a regulation establishing transitional arrangements for bilateral investment agreements between member states and third countries. The second legislative deliberation will focus on the proposal for a regulation on the application of the generalised system of tariff preferences (GSP).

On the first legislative proposal, the UK position is to support the effort to reach an early agreement, while ensuring that the regulation is competence neutral. On the proposed GSP regulation, we would support the presidency compromise on the condition that suitable transitional arrangements are put in place for the upper middle income countries to be excluded from the reformed scheme.

There are three substantive “non-legislative” items. The first involve a discussion on the EU free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru, where Ministers will be invited to reach a political agreement on the agreement and its provisional application.

The second substantive non-legislative item is the EU—Singapore FTA negotiation. Here Ministers will discuss the state of play and next steps in the negotiation following a presentation by commissioner De Gucht.

There will then be a point on the Council conclusions on trade, growth and development. The presidency will invite Ministers to adopt the draft Council conclusions. The UK welcomes the conclusions and therefore we will support their adoption by the Council.

There are two AOB items, namely: EU-US trade and economic relations and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The UK is a strong advocate of ambitious trade and investment relations between the EU and the US. We will therefore be taking the lead in the discussion pushing for this objective.

Over lunch, there will be separate discussions on the scoping exercise for an EU-Japan FTA, trade liberalisation and green growth, and the state of play in the EU-India FTA negotiation. The UK strongly supports FTAs with India and Japan and there we will urge the Commission to keep up momentum in relation to these negotiations.

The Government’s main aims will be to:

Support the presidency compromise in relation to the legislative files on bilateral investment treaties and generalised system of preferences, while making sure that our interests are protected.

Support the Council decisions on signature and provisional application of the EU agreement with Colombia and Peru.

Reiterate support for a speedy and an ambitious deal in the EU-Singapore FTA, which includes securing market access for our financial services industry.

Welcome the Council conclusions on trade, growth and development, and support their adoption by the Council.

Reiterate support for strengthening trade and investment relations between the EU and the US.

Express strong support for FTAs with India and Japan and urge the Commission to keep up momentum in relation to these negotiations.