|Dajana Topic, Eurofast Global|
A free trade agreement (FTA) has been signed between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) and ministers from the member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, on June 24 2013.
Negotiations on the FTA between BIH and EFTA began on the basis of the decision of the Presidency of BIH at the end of March 2011. After more than two years of very complex and difficult negotiations, they were successfully completed at the end of May 2013.
While the FTA primarily covers trade in industrial goods, including fish and other marine products, bilateral agreements on agricultural products between the individual EFTA States and BIH were also concluded. In other fields, negotiations have commenced which will likely result in agreements on preferential rules in the future.
Merchandise trade between the EFTA States and BIH increased at an average rate of 16.3% between 2001 and 2012. In 2012, total merchandise trade between the two parties was valued at $138 million, with EFTA's exports to BIH amounting to $60 million, including predominantly pharmaceutical products and machinery, and imports reaching $78 million, mainly consisting of furniture, apparel and footwear.
A joint committee will supervise the functioning of the FTA, which will become effective after completion of the necessary internal procedures by the parties.
The signing of this agreement represents a confirmation of the aspirations of both sides to create conditions for further development, as well as to improve trade and economic cooperation for mutual benefit. In addition to the potential positive effects of this agreement for the BIH economy, which in a relatively short time could expect the opening of the market of EFTA countries, the agreement represents an important step forward in the EU integration of BIH in the European Economic Area, which is based on free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
EFTA is an intergovernmental organisation set up for the promotion of free trade and economic integration to the benefit of its four member states.
EFTA was founded in 1960 by Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Finland joined in 1961, Iceland in 1970 and Liechtenstein in 1991. In 1973, the UK and Denmark left EFTA to join the EC. They were followed by Portugal in 1986 and by Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. Today the EFTA member states are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
With a combined population of around 13 million, the EFTA States are the world's 11th largest merchandise trader, as well as significant actors in the areas of trade in services and foreign direct investment. They have concluded 26 FTAs with a total of 36 partner countries outside the EU
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