The EU negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the member states – including Ireland. These agreements deal with preferential duty rates on the shipment of goods between the EU and countries around the world.
They have also evolved to cover a wider range of areas to facilitate trade. Among these include government procurement opportunities, business visitor visas, mutual recognition of professional qualifications, the certification of products, intellectual property rights and the cross border trade in services.
These far reaching agreements can take a number of years of detailed negotiations.
The EU has preferential trade agreements with about 70 countries worldwide. These countries represent nearly 32% of the EU’s external trade.
€3bn worth of Irish exports are eligible for preferential tariffs as a result of these agreements.
There are a number of negotiations ongoing with countries in the hope that a future free trade agreement can be reached. Some of the more significant include Australia, New Zealand and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay)
EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
The European Union and Japan have signed the Economic Partnership Agreement, a comprehensive trade agreement including goods, services and investment, eliminating tariffs, non-tariff barriers and other trade-related issues, such as public procurement, regulatory issues, competition, and sustainable development.
Japan is one of the key trading partners of the European Union, it is its seventh largest trading partner globally and the second biggest one in Asia. Conversely, the European Union is Japan’s third largest trading partner. Together economies of Japan and the EU account for more than one third of world GDP.
The EPA applies as of 1 February 2019.
EU-Canada – Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA)
CETA was signed on October 21st 2017. The benefits related to tariffs are in force. CETA was the first of the new generation of trade agreements signed by the EU.
EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement
In October 2018, the EU and Singapore signed a Free Trade Agreement and Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). The EU-Singapore FTA is the first FTA between the EU and a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is intended that the FTA will be applied during 2019.
EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement
The EU has agreed an FTA and an Investment Protection Agreement with Vietnam, also a member of ASEAN. It is not yet in force, it is expected to be applied in late 2019/early 2020
Modernisation of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement
This has been agreed in principle with some outstanding technical issues being finalised during 2019.
 EU EXPORTS, PREFERENCES UTILISATION AND DUTY SAVINGS BY MEMBER STATE, SECTOR AND PARTNER COUNTRY
Lars Nilsson and Nicolas Preillon