European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

Association européenne de libre-échange (AELE)
Europäische Freihandelsassoziation

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History

4 Jan 1960, Stockholm (Sweden), on signature of the Stockholm Convention, by the governments of Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, following initial decision by government officials of these countries, June 1959, Saltsjöbaden (Sweden). The Stockholm Convention (hereafter referred to as the Convention) entered into force on 3 May 1960. Finland became an associate member in June 1961; and was formally approved as a full member 4 Nov 1985, with effect from 1 Jan 1986. Iceland became a full member in Mar 1970 and Liechtenstein in Sep 1991. Six members have left EFTA to become members of the European Communities (EC), now the first pillar of the European Union (EU): Denmark and the UK at the end of 1972; Portugal as of 31 Dec 1985; Austria, Finland and Sweden as of 31 Dec 1994.

Guidelines for developing the EFTA-EC relationship and creation of European Economic Area (EEA) - originally referred to as European Economic Space (EES) - were set out in the Luxembourg Declaration of 1984. Exploratory talks on free movement of goods, services, capital and labour throughout the 19-country area began in 1989; they also covered increased cooperation in other fields such as education, the environment, social policy and research and development. The first meeting of EFTA-EC negotiators for formal negotiations on the establishment of a European Economic Area encompassing all EFTA and EC countries took place on 20 June 1990, with the aim of concluding negotiations in 1991 so that the EEA Agreement could come into force on 1 Jan 1993, at the same time as the EC single market. The EEA Agreement was finally concluded on 21 Oct 1991, signed 2 May 1992 and entered into force on 1 Jan 1994 for all EC and EFTA countries except Switzerland, which rejected the Agreement in a referendum on 1 Jan 1994. Updated EFTA Convention, the Vaduz Convention, signed at EFTA Ministerial meeting, 21 June 2001, Vaduz (Liechtenstein) and entered into force 1 June 2002, principally covers relations between EFTA members of EEA and Switzerland with the European Union so that all EFTA members benefit from privileged trading relations. The legal texts of the EEA Enlargement were signed 11 Nov 2003, and as of 1 May the 10 new EU Members States are also members of the EEA.

Aims

Remove import duties, quotas and other obstacles to trade in Western Europe and uphold liberal, non-discriminatory practices in world trade; promote in the EFTA area and in each member state a sustained expansion of economic activity, full employment, increased productivity and the rational use of resources, financial stability and continuous improvement in living standards; secure conditions of fair competition in trade between member states; avoid significant disparity between member states in the conditions of supply of raw materials produced within the EFTA area; contribute to harmonious development and expansion of world trade and to progressive removal of barriers to this; create a single market in Western Europe.

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Activities

Unites in one free trade area the markets of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and also constitutes a platform for Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein to participate in the EEA with the 15 member states of the European Union. EFTA Council: manages relations between EFTA states under the Convention; decides on policies to promote overall objectives of the Association and to facilitate development of links with other states (who are not members of the EU, or 'third countries'), unions of states or international organizations. Free trade in industrial goods among members commenced in 1966, when import duties were abolished. Finland abolished import duties in Dec 1967. Much of EFTA's work is carried out through informal mechanisms, with discussion among heads of national delegations, even in the case of disputes (when there is rarely need to resort to official complaints procedure). Current major activities are in the fields of:

 • 'Free Movement of Goods' - technical barriers to trade; origin rules and customs matters; efficient trade procedures; veterinary matters (including feeding stuffs and phytosanitary matters); energy; state aid; public procurement; competition policy; intellectual property.

 • 'Free Movement of Capital and Services and Company Law' - financial services; transport (including inland transport/inland waterways, maritime transport, civil aviation); new technology services (including telecommunications, audio-visual and information services); postal services.

 • 'Free Movement of Persons' - mutual recognition of diplomas; social security; European employment services (EURES).

 • 'Flanking and Horizontal Policies' - research and development; education, training and youth; small and medium-sized enterprises; environment; civil protection; social policy; consumer protection; tourism; culture.

 • 'Legal and Institutional Questions'.

 • 'Translation and Publication'.

'Mutual Recognition of Tests and Inspections' - EFTA Secretariat services: Convention for the Mutual Recognition of Inspections in Respect of the Manufacture of Pharmaceutical Products (PIC); Pharmaceutical inspection cooperation scheme (PIC/S); Scheme for the mutual recognition of evaluation reports on pharmaceutical products (PER Scheme); Convention on the Control and Marking of Articles of Precious Metals (Hallmarking convention).

'Standardization, Testing and Certification Policy' - pursued: through Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT); through close contact with European standardization organizations; in cooperation with the European Community, the latter dating from the Luxembourg (Luxembourg) Declaration of 9 Apr 1984. Standardization mandates are mainly granted to the European standards organizations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI.

/European Economic Area/:

Establishment of a single market in Western Europe was substantially realized, 1 Jan 1973, when Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between Austria, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland and the EEC came into force and when the latter was also enlarged by the entry of Denmark, Ireland and UK. Similar agreements came into force between Norway and the EEC on 1 July 1973 and between Finland and the EEC on 1 Jan 1974. Under these agreements, import duties on almost all industrial products were abolished from 1 July 1977, effectively creating an EEC-EFTA Free Trade Zone for free industrial trade between EFTA and countries of European Community. The current 'European Economic Area', established 2 May 1992, comprises the internal market of the EU and the 3 EEA-EFTA countries. Together, these 28 countries represent a single market in services, capital and manufactured goods for over 455 million people. EEA also resulted in the creation of a single labour market and provides for participation by EFTA countries in various EU programmes, funds and projects in fields not directly related to trade such as research and development, the environment, education and training. Under the Agreement: the European Commission (EC) informally seeks advice from experts in EFTA countries when drawing up new legislation in the field covered by the Agreement; experts from EFTA states are ensured wide participation when the Commission exercises its executive powers, for example in amending certain annexes to existing EU legislation; EEA-EFTA states participate fully in EU's Internal Market through adoption of corresponding legislation and are associated with all activities of the EU in relation to the operation of the internal market, including involvement in all relevant EU committees; EEA-EFTA states fully contribute to and participate in all EU Programmes in the fields of research and development, information services, environment, education, training and youth, social policy, consumer protection, small and medium-sized enterprises, tourism, audiovisual sector, civil protection, culture. The rules of origin to the EEA Agreement - protocol 4 - were most recently amended from 1 Jan 1997, when the system of pan-European cumulation entered into force.

/Free Trade Agreements with/:

 • 'Turkey', signed 10 Dec 1991;

 • 'Israel', signed 17 Sep 1992.

 • 'Morocco', signed 19 June 1997 and entered into force, 1999;

 • Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), interim FTA signed 30 Nov 1998 and entered into force, 1999;

 • 'North Macedonia', signed 19 June 2000;

 • 'Croatia', signed 21 June 2001;

 • 'Jordan', signed 21 June 2001;

 • 'Mexico', signed 1 July 2001;

 • 'Singapore', signed in 2002 and entered into force, 2003;

 • 'Chile', signed in 2003 and entered into force, 2004;

 • 'Lebanon', signed 24 June 2004, and entered into force, 2007;

 • 'Tunisia', signed 17 Dec 2004;

 • 'Korea Rep', signed 15 Dec 2005;

 • Southern African Customs Union (SACU), signed 2006, and entered into force, 2008;

 • 'Egypt', entered into force, 2007;

 • 'Canada', signed 2008;

 • 'Colombia', signed 2008.

/Declarations of Cooperation with/:

 • 'Albania', 10 Dec 1992;

 • 'Egypt', 8 Dec 1995;

 • 'Ukraine', 19 June 2000;

 • Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), 23 May 2000;

 • Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), 15 Dec 2000;

 • 'Serbia-Montenegro', 12 Dec 2000;

 • 'Algeria', 12 Dec 2002;

 • 'Peru', 24 Apr 2006;

 • 'Colombia', 17 May 2006;

 • 'Mongolia', 2007.

/Formal launch of free trade negotiations with/:

 • 'Canada', 1998;

 • 'Thailand', 2005;

 • Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC);

 • 'Colombia', 2007;

 • 'Peru', 2007;

 • 'Algeria', 2007.

/Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) signed with/:

 • 'USA'.

/Technical assistance to other countries/:

 • Joint EFTA-EU activities, including participation in the EU MEDSTAT programme for statistical assistance to Mediterranean countries.

 • Projects related to EFTA Free Trade Agreements and Declarations of Cooperation and financed by EFTA states.

Structure

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Languages

English.

Staff

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Financing

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Relations with Inter-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 27 inter-governmental organizations.
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Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 19 non-governmental organizations.
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Publications

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Members

Members in 50 countries
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Type I Classification

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Type II Classification

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Subjects *

  • Commerce
    • Conditions of Trade
  • Government
    • Intergovernmental Communities

UN Sustainable Development Goals **

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

UIA Org ID

D0766

Last News Received

12. Jun 2018
* Subject classification is derived from the organization names and aims.
** UN SDGs are linked to the subject classification.

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