Israel and the European Union have postponed to Nov. 20 the signing of an association accord that was to be formally signed this week in Luxembourg, according to an Israeli diplomatic source.
The new accord, which replaces a 1975 trade and cooperation accord between Israel and what was then known as the Common Market, was initialed in September and was to have been signed Monday by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at a meeting with the 15 E.U. foreign ministers.
But the signing ceremony was postponed because Peres is participating this week in a three-day Middle East and North African Economic Conference in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
The agreement will grant Israel special status to participate in the European Union’s scientific and technological research and development projects.
The accord will also provide for expanded free trade between Israel and the 15 nations comprising the European economic bloc.
Israel hopes that the new accord will help lessen Israel’s growing trade imbalance with the European Union, which is Israel’s main trading partner.
The new agreement – which will need to be approved by the Knesset and the parliaments of the E.U. member states before it becomes effective – would allow 90 percent of Israeli agricultural products to be exempt from E.U. tariffs, compared with the current 70 percent.
The accord was reached in July after several E.U. member states received assurances that Israeli imports would not adversely affect their domestic markets.
The accord is aimed strengthening the links between the two parties in the framework of an E.U. strategy to create a vast Mediterranean free trade area.
If approved, the Israel-E.U. accord would be the second association agreement between the European body and a Mediterranean country. The first was reached with Tunisia in July.