Written Answers. - EU Trade Relations.

Austin Deasy

Question:

22 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there are moves within the European Union to improve trade relations with north African countries specifically with regard to giving them improved access for agricultural products such as fruit and vegetables, particularly during the winter months, other than that which is being granted under the Barcelona accord. [3906/02]

Austin Deasy

Question:

32 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there have been complaints from north African countries regarding fruit and vegetable products which they sell into the European Union and are being re-labelled and sold as having originated in Europe. [3905/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 32 together.

All the countries of north Africa, with the exception of Libya, are parties to the Barcelona Process which was established at the meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers held on 27 and 28 November 1995. The Barcelona Declaration, which was adopted at the meeting, called for the establishment of a free trade area to be achieved through the Euro-Mediterranean Agreements between the European Union and the respective Mediterranean partners. The declaration set a target date of 2010 for the gradual achievement of the proposed free trade area, which is intended to cover most products. Where agricultural produce is concerned, the Barcelona Declaration called for progressive liberalisation of trade through reciprocal preferential access among the partners.

All the Euro-Mediterranean agreements provide for greater liberalisation of trade in agricultural produce and there are ongoing discussions between the European Commission and the countries concerned, which deal with all issues arising in the framework of the agreements. As far as trade in agricultural produce with the countries of north Africa is concerned, negotiations with Morocco for a revised protocol on trade in agricultural produce took place on 23 January and are to resume in March. The EU-Tunisia association council met on 29 January to discuss matters of mutual concern including trade.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is not aware of any complaints from north African countries about fruit and vegetable products being imported into the EU and re-labelled and sold as European produce. Both the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and the permanent representation in Brussels have contacted the relevant services of the European Commission and been informed that the Commission is not aware of such complaints. The Ministers responsible for trade in the Euro-Mediterranean area will meet in Toledo on 19 March next to review developments in trade over the past year.