EU Trade Talks with New Zealand, Indonesia Advancing Steadily, Officials Say

15 November 2018

The European Commission recently circulated updates on the progress seen in two different negotiating processes, specifically with Indonesia and New Zealand, earlier this month, referring to valuable advances seen in both cases. 

While trade talks with Indonesia have been underway for over two years, negotiations with New Zealand are in the early stages, with delegates holding their second round of talks last month. The EU is pursuing a host of bilateral trade talks with partners internationally, with processes underway in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, and beyond. 

Indonesia talks: “good progress across the board” 

The EU and Indonesia are looking to ink a deal that would be known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), an accord that would link the 28-nation European bloc with the biggest and most populous economy of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

The most recent negotiating round between them was held from 15-19 October in Palembang, Indonesia. According to a report by the European Commission, that round saw “good progress across the board, and particularly on the chapters on customs and trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, technical barriers to trade, and sustainable development.” 

Talks also covered market access offers and textual provisions relating to trade in services, as well as investment. On the subject of investment dispute resolution, the EU noted some progress, while indicating that “the Indonesian side has not taken a position yet on this issue.” 

The report also named state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and public procurement as other subjects where negotiators made headway last month, and confirmed that negotiators would reconvene formally for their next round in March of next year. That event will mark the seventh negotiating round overall. 

The EU has signed trade and investment protection accords with Singapore, and is expected to soon do the same with Vietnam. The European bloc and ASEAN had previously attempted to negotiate a region-to-region accord, switching later to bilateral agreements with individual ASEAN member states that could lay the groundwork for a wider deal. Indonesia, meanwhile, is participating in a series of trade negotiations of its own, including within the ASEAN framework, with one of the most high profile being the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involving ASEAN and its six free trade agreement (FTA) partners. 

The RCEP talks and ASEAN’s other trading relationships are taking centre stage this week in Singapore, as leaders from the Southeast Asian bloc hold their annual summit to review a host of issues on their regional economic integration agenda. (For more on ASEAN, see related  story, this edition 

New Zealand talks continue apace

One of the EU’s most recent trade negotiating processes involves New Zealand, with the two sides holding their second round of talks from 8-12 October. The negotiations were launched earlier this year, after both sides spent 2015-2017 scoping out what an accord could cover, and then undergoing the necessary domestic processes to secure their respective negotiating mandates. 

According to New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the parties are aiming for a “high-quality, progressive agreement.” The MFAT summary clarifies that Wellington is looking to see a deal that is commercially significant, including the “comprehensive tariff elimination for all goods,” potentially with longer phase-out periods and other measures to address sensitivities over agriculture. According to MFAT, the deal should also set “a global benchmark on social and environmental priorities – like climate change, gender equality, indigenous rights, labour standards, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.” 

According to an EU report on the latest round, negotiators were able to “bridge gaps between both sides’ positions in a number of areas, and to close corresponding portions of texts,” as well as map out steps that both should take before negotiators reconvene next February. 

Negotiators are already engaged in text-based discussions in various negotiating areas, such as on the text for trade in goods, as well as reviewing textual proposals from one or both sides on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), trade remedies, investment and capital movements, investment liberalisation and services trade, and public procurement. 

The two sides also engaged in detail on various sustainability-linked areas, such as environment, labour, and climate change, looking to examine both multilateral conventions and accords, as well as bilateral interests and objectives in different areas, such as biodiversity and marine fisheries. According to the report, carbon markets and cooperation were raised during the climate-specific discussions. 

ICTSD reporting.

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