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Plan would keep Northern Ireland in EU customs union 
“Officials from the UK and EU are drawing up a plan to in effect keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and the single market after Brexit in order to avoid a hard border. The opening of technical talks followed a warning from Brussels that keeping the region under EU laws was currently the only viable option for inclusion in its draft withdrawal agreement.”
[The Guardian]

Mexico hopes to conclude FTA with EU by end of February
The two sides “want to add farm products, more services, investment, and government procurement, and include provision on labour standards and environmental protection” to the agreement they concluded 21 years ago. “EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom could come in the week starting Feb. 19 to help push talks to a close and to allow an initial deal to be announced, though only if a deal was within reach.”

EU imposes AD duties on corrosion-resistant steel from China
The duty rates range from 17.2 percent to 27.9 percent.
[Official Journal of the EU]

Report from second round of EU-Chile FTA negotiations
[European Commission]

Middle East

VAT could double in 5 years 
“The five percent VAT that came into effect in two GCC countries from the start of 2018 ‘is extremely low in global standards’ and would be increased to 10 percent after five years, an International Monetary Fund official said. Tim Callen, IMF mission chief to Saudi Arabia, said GCC states might have to increase the tax rate above the current five percent depending on the revenue needs of each country, but not within the next five years.”

UAE seeks to lower dependence on food imports
The UAE currently imports between 80 and 90 percent of its food. The government “intends to do more research on the topic, and planned to introduce new technologies and other business incentives to boost the sector’s growth.”


Mozambique joins economic partnership agreement with EU
“The other five countries [of the Southern Africa Development Community] – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland – have been implementing the agreement since October 2016. Implementing the EPA means that Mozambique will not have to pay customs duties on its exports to the EU.”
[European Commission]

Sudan’s Central Bank bans imports
A bank circular “banned any agent from importing resources using their own foreign currency.” One observer said that “with these measures the government will force the flight of investors, exporters, importers, and halt trade.”

Kenya, Tanzania end trade dispute
“The dispute saw Kenya banning cooking gas and wheat imports from Tanzania, while the latter blocked Kenyan milk and tyres from entering its territory.” Issues discussed at a recent meeting included “how to resolve multiple levies and other charges; lack of preferential trade arrangements; the need for standardised inspection fees; delays at border checkpoints; slow customs procedures at border crossings and slow implementation of relevant [East African Community] directives.”
[The Citizen]