BRUSSELS (Jun. 6)
An updated trade and economic agreement between Israel and the European Union is expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to Michael Harish, Israel’s minister of commerce and industry.
Speaking last week at the end of a two-day visit to Brussels, Harish said that since January representatives of Israel and the European Executive Commission have been discussing the new agreement, which will update Israel’s 1975 free-trade accord with the EU.
“At that time (1975), the Iron Curtain still existed. But today the Eastern European markets are accessible. This situation requires the adaptation of our accord with the Europeans,” Harish told journalists.
Europe is Israel’s main trade partner. Last year, more than 60 percent of Israeli imports were from European countries, and more than 38 percent of Israel’s exports were to the 12 EU member states.
In recent years, Israel has tried to elevate its trading status with the EU to gain better access to the European market.
Israel wants the new accord to include the telecommunications and services sectors, and is eager to participate in European research and development programs.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is expected to meet his EU counterparts in Luxembourg on June 13 for the annual meeting of the EU-Israel Cooperation Council.
They are expected to review the state of the talks on updating their accord and discuss the granting of EU funds to support the newly created Palestinian autonomous entities in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.
Harish was in Brussels for talks with several European and Belgian senior officials, including Sir Leon Brittan, vice president of the European Executive Commission, and Belgian Foreign Minister Willy Claes.