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Reducing barriers to international free trade

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Reducing barriers to international free trade

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International trade agreements Trade agreements open up new opportunities for the UK’s exporters. They can also ensure access to competitively priced imports from other countries.

Negotiating Trade Agreements

The UK has a shared import/export policy with other European Union (EU) countries. This means EU countries work together to negotiate trade agreements with non-EU countries.

This arrangement is part of the Common Commercial Policy – an agreement where the EU represents all its member states in trade negotiations with non-EU countries.

Types of Trade Agreement

There are two main types of international trade agreement:

  • multilateral agreements are negotiated between the 157 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - any trade concession applies to all members but with special considerations for poor countries
  • bilateral agreements are negotiated between the EU and other individual countries or trading blocs - they include the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) the EU is negotiating with India, Singapore and Canada

Trade and development

There are several types of trade agreement specially suited for poorer countries. They include:

  • Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs): these provide immediate duty and quota free access to EU markets for countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP)
  • Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): this grants trade preferences and reductions in tariffs to 176 developing countries and territories
  • GSP+ scheme: this grants extra concessions to countries that adopt 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights and the environment
  • Everything but Arms (EBA): this is for the poorest countries in the world - it grants them duty and quota free access to EU markets without asking for concessions in return

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