North Africa and the Middle East

House of Lords written question – answered on 5th December 2011.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to offer improved access to United Kingdom markets to (1) countries in south-east Europe which are not members of the European Union, and (2) emerging democracies in the Middle East and North Africa.

Photo of Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

United Kingdom trade relations are determined through the European Union, which has a common external trade policy across all member states.

With regard to countries in south-east Europe, the EU has since 2000 offered preferential access to practically all products originating from countries in the region which are not members of the EU. This includes access through the implementation of more recent stabilisation and association agreements (SAAs) with Albania, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro; and through interim SAAs with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The EU is currently renewing its autonomous trade preferences for the western Balkans, which apply to Kosovo. A delay to this process has led to these preferences lapsing since the beginning of the year. However, we expect these to be back in place shortly, and for Kosovan traders to be able to reclaim any duties they have paid.

With regard to emerging democracies in the Middle East and North Africa, the UK has led the calls for an ambitious EU trade response, including a timely intervention by the Prime Minister at the European Council in March 2011. There are already association agreements in place with key emerging democracies in the region, which provide for a significant amount of free trade. The EU and its member states have signaled at the political level a willingness further to enter into negotiations on deep and comprehensive free trade agreements (DCFTAs) with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, which promise even greater market access as long as the countries concerned continue on the path to democracy and good governance.

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