EU Israel trade relations
Delivered in Plenary - September 4th 2003
The first EC-Israel Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1975 and for 20 years thelocation of exported products was never questioned. However, now it is being used as a political instrument to bash Israel and the settlements. The author of the oral question has gone as far as calling for the suspension of the more recent 1995 agreement, even though the Commission has controversially agreed with her and imposed tariffs on goods allegedlyexported by the settlements in the Occupied Territories. This is a technical dispute on trade and, although I am a friend of Israel, I support an eventual two-state solution and a dismantling of most of the settlements.
Palestine is not yet a state competent to have its own trade agreements, which, controversially, the EU ratified in 1994. TheCommission did this in spite of the fact that Israel had the signed agreement of the Palestinian Authority that Israel was responsible for customs matters for goods exported from the settlements. Nevertheless, there is also an EU-Palestine Free Trade Agreement. Therefore, whichever way you look at it, these goods should have EU tariff-free access as they come from territories covered by one or other free trade agreement.
All trade agreements refer to the territory where the goods are produced, not the nationality or the religion of the producers. This whole dispute is now subject to a technical resolution under Article 79 of the Association Agreement, which is where it rightfully belongs. It should not be the subject of political manipulation within this House.
The debate is engendering further hostility to trade with Israel and undermines Israel's faith in the impartiality of the EU as a vital component of the quartet in the quest for the Roadmap for Peace and the end of terrorism. I am sure that all sides of the House desire that outcome strongly.