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Europe

UK-EU talks on post-Brexit relations ‘in deep freeze’

Planned negotiating rounds on the UK’s future relationship with the EU have been abandoned as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with Boris Johnson’s government still to table a comprehensive legal text for both sides to work on.

During a European commission briefing, envoys for the EU capitals were told that holding negotiations via videoconferencing had so far proved impossible.

The two sides are trying to find a way to maintain dialogue in the coming weeks and months to kick-start the talks, but a previous schedule for negotiating rounds, with weeks set aside for consultation and preparation, has been ditched.

The fact that the UK was still to table a legal text added an extra layer of difficulty, EU sources said.

The European commission published a 441-page draft treaty on 13 March that covers every aspect of the future relationship. The UK left the EU on 31 January and has until the end of the year to negotiate a new economic and security relationship or face trading on WTO terms with large tariffs on goods.

Despite Downing Street’s public insistence that a similarly comprehensive text would be tabled earlier this month, EU sources said the UK had tabled only four documents covering trade, transport, aviation and nuclear cooperation. London has not tabled legal text on significant issues including security cooperation or fisheries, and nor has it made its texts public.

[The Guardian]

Coronavirus: Commission issues guidelines to protect critical European assets and technology in current crisis

The European Commission issued guidelines to ensure a strong EU-wide approach to foreign investment screening in a time of public health crisis and related economic vulnerability. The aim is to preserve EU companies and critical assets, notably in areas such as health, medical research, biotechnology and infrastructures that are essential for our security and public order, without undermining the EU’s general openness to foreign investment.

Under existing EU rules, Member States are empowered to screen foreign direct investments (FDI) from non-EU countries on grounds of security or public order. Protection of public health is recognized as an overriding reason in the general interest. As a result, Member States can impose mitigating measures (such as supply commitments to meet national and EU vital needs) or prevent a foreign investor from acquiring or taking control over a company. National FDI screening mechanisms are currently in place in 14 Member States. With the EU foreign investment screening regulation in force since last year, the EU is well equipped to coordinate control of foreign acquisitions done at the Member States’ level.

Issuing its guidelines, the Commission calls upon Member States that already have an existing screening mechanism in place to make full use of tools available to them under EU and national law to prevent capital flows from non-EU countries that could undermine Europe’s security or public order.

[European Commission]

HRVP Josep Borrell: Green light for EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia is good news for the region and the EU

On 25 March EU Member States agreed to start accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Earlier this month, the European Commission had already confirmed progress made by the two countries in its updated reports.

The Council welcomed the determination of Albania and North Macedonia to advance on the EU reform agenda. The countries have delivered tangible results, fulfilling the conditions identified by the June 2018 Council for the opening of the accession negotiations.

In light of the progress achieved on reforms and the fulfillment of the conditions set unanimously in June 2018, the Council, subject to endorsement by European Council members, decided to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell welcomed the Member States’ green light to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia as a recognition of the significant progress and the crucial reforms that the countries have undertaken. Borrell added that this is good news for both countries, the region and the entire European Union.

[European Union’s diplomatic service]

 

Middle East

Dubai Chamber has launched a free service to collect, process and deliver documents for issuance of ATA Carnet and attestation, from March 26, 2020

This service has been launched in cooperation with UPS and members can contact the company for pickup of their documents from home or office.  The document will then be delivered to the Chamber, where it will be processed and sent back, within 4 days, to the customer.

The free service comes in light of the precautionary measures adopted by the Chamber to deal with the impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the business sector. Through this initiative, the Chamber aims to support its customers and ensure theirs and the employees’ security and safety while maintaining business continuity.

The ATA Carnet is an international customs document that permits free temporary export and import of non-perishable goods for up to one year, without any import duty or tax.

It covers almost all aspects of commercial samples, professional equipment and merchandise intended for use in trade fairs, shows and events.

[Zawya]

 

Africa

Coronavirus hits Africa’s mega trade deal plans

Trade talks aimed at launching the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on July 1 are now on hold.

As the world grapples with its biggest health crisis in living memory and unrolls budgetary measures not seen since World War II to combat the economic impact of a pandemic that has caused more than 15,000 deaths, officials in Africa are now resigned to delaying the launch of what would become the world’s largest free-trade bloc indefinitely.

The launch of the AfCFTA has risen to the top of the political agenda under South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the 55-member African Union. The U.N. believes the accord could boost intra-African trade by 52 percent when duties on goods crossing borders are finally eliminated. And EU leaders are keeping a close eye. Before the coronavirus crisis hit, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made two visits to the continent within her first 100 days in office.

Apart from the potential economic opportunities for European companies, the EU — which has poured €60 million into the project — sees Africa’s continent-wide trade deal as an opportunity to bolster global commitments to multilateralism and rules-based trade. It is also as much about enabling peace and security on the continent as it is about giving those who live there a reason not to migrate northwards to Europe’s shores.

[Politico]