BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) — The European Union (EU) on Tuesday announced that its Parliament has approved a trade agreement to help boost the Palestinian economy by enabling the West Bank and Gaza to export farm and fisheries products directly to the EU.
According to the agreement, agricultural and fisheries products from the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have direct duty-free and mostly quota-free access to the European market. It also provides European produce access to Palestinian markets.
Opening EU markets directly to Palestinian products, which have up to now been under the direct control of the Israeli customs authorities, will help the Palestinian people expand their economy, according to Members of the European Parliament. With Parliament’s approval, the agreement can enter into force early next year.
“This agreement offers an opportunity for the Palestinian people, a first step towards the development of a nation”, said Parliament rapporteur Maria Eleni Koppa during the debate, emphasizing that the deal complied with the rules of origin and that this should ensure that the Palestinian economy will benefit fully from the expansion in trade.
The import conditions of the approved agreement are valid for a period of 10 years and can then be further extended. Furthermore, the EU can adopt safeguard measures in the unlikely event that Palestinian imports of agricultural products and fisheries products increase to a point at which they distort the EU’s internal market.
With the agreement, the Palestinian Authority is the EU’s smallest trading partner in the Euro-Mediterranean region and one of the smallest worldwide.
Total trade in Palestine amounted to 56.6 million euros ($ 76.8 million) in 2009, of which 50.5 million euros ($ 68.6 million) were EU exports. Meanwhile, imports to the EU from the Palestinian Authority amounted to 6.1 million euros ($ 8.3 million) in 2009, with agricultural products making up 70.1 percent of this total. Imports rose, however, by 32.6 percent in the first three months of 2010.