BRUSSELS (Feb. 10)
Israel and the European Economic Community (EEC) have ended the first week of what promises to be prolonged negotiations aimed at adjusting their 1975 trade accord to accommodate the entry of Spain and Portugal into the Common Market, both exporters of agricultural products that compete with Israel’s exports to the Continent.
“Although they have not been conclusive, we have made progress,” an Israel Embassy official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today. He was speaking of the first round of meetings here between the EEC Executive Commission and an Israeli delegation headed by Yossef Hadass, Israel’s Ambassador to Belgium and to the EEC.
The official said Israel welcomed, with reservations, some of the EEC proposals. One is the progressive dismantling, over a 10-year period, of all remaining tariffs on agricultural exports from non-EEC Mediterranean countries.
This would parallel the elimination of tariffs on such exports from Spain and Portugal, which joined the Common Market on January I. Another suggestion is to reduce, by 1991, what are called the import reference prices for five sensitive products, including oranges, if export conditions deteriorate.
Israel has expressed fear that such a move would introduce an element of insecurity for the producers and the European importers of those products. Israel has also complained that the export quotas proposed by the EEC were based on a 10 member-state Economic Community whereas there are now 12 member states.
Israel is asking the Commission in addition to eliminate tariffs on raw materials and finished goods and to take up the problem of quotas on fresh-cut flowers, an important Israeli export to the Common Market countries.
The Israeli official noted that the European Community is Israel’s main trading partner. It absorbed Israeli exports amounting to $1.9 billion in 1985. The EEC is also negotiating with other Mediterranean countries, including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. These must be concluded before the EEC “gives a technical response to our demands,” the official said.