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EU and Mexico conclude negotiations for new trade agreement

The European Union and Mexico concluded on 28 April the last outstanding element of the negotiation of their new trade agreement. Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and Mexican Minister of Economy Graciela Márquez Colín – in a phone call on 28 April – agreed on the exact scope of the reciprocal opening of public procurement markets and a high level of predictability and transparency in public procurement processes. With this, the EU and Mexico can advance to the signature and ratification of this agreement in line with their respective rules and procedures.

Under the new EU-Mexico agreement, practically all trade in goods between the EU and Mexico will be duty-free. The agreement also now includes progressive rules on sustainable development, such as a commitment to effectively implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. It is also the first time that the EU agrees with a Latin American country on issues concerning investment protection. Simpler customs procedures will further help boost exports.

[European Commission]

Michael Gove: Coronavirus will ‘concentrate the minds’ of EU Brexit negotiators

The coronavirus pandemic will “concentrate the minds” of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and help secure a trade deal by the end of the year, U.K. Cabinet minister Michael Gove said on 27 April.

Gove, who leads preparations for a no-deal end to the Brexit transition period, said it is “entirely possible” negotiations on the EU-U.K.’s future relationship will conclude by December 31.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Brexit committee, Gove said: “I think the COVID crisis, in some respects, should concentrate the minds of EU negotiators, reinforcing the vital importance of coming to a conclusion.”

“It is undeniable that a fair-minded observer looking at the situation would say that there are difficult challenges ahead for individual member states and the EU itself. However, the professionalism of the [European] Commission negotiating team and their focus on trying to make progress has not, so far as I can see, been affected.”

Gove spoke hours after the prime minister’s official spokesman called for “political movement on the EU side” to move negotiations forward, particularly on the so-called level playing field, designed to ensure the U.K. does not diverge from EU rules in a way that gives the country a competitive advantage, and fisheries — two of the four sticking points, together with governance and criminal justice cooperation. Gove said the U.K. won’t budge on either issue.

An extension to the Brexit transition — repeatedly ruled out by Britain — would postpone a deal and would require the U.K. to pay money into the EU’s next budget, Gove said. However, he refused to say whether the U.K. is still planning to walk away from the negotiations if it had not made sufficient progress toward a deal by the end of June.


Middle East

Omani Port Community System to be developed as PPP project

The development and operation of a National Ports Community System in Oman – an initiative to strengthen the Sultanate’s credentials as a logistics-enabled economy – will now be pursued as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) based project.

Overseeing the delivery of the project is the recently established Public Authority for Privatization and Partnership (PAPP) which invited suitably qualified consultants to participate in a competitive tender to provide Transaction Advisory Services underpinning the roll-out of a National Ports Community System for the Sultanate.

Interested consultants have until May 7, 2020 to collect a Request for Qualifications (RfQ) from the Authority to register their interest in participating in the tender.

The proposed Ports Community System (PCS), according to the Authority, will serve as a “Neutral and open electronic platform enabling intelligent and secure exchange of information between public and private stakeholders in order to improve the competitive position of the port and air ports’ communities”.

Plans for a National Port Community System were first mooted by Tanfeedh (The National Program for Enhancing Economic Diversification) in 2017 as part of over 100 ‘quick-win’ initiatives designed to spur non-oil economic investment in the Sultanate. A PCS has long been mooted as imperative to integrating the currently disparate systems currently operated by various the stakeholders who together make up the shipping, port, maritime and logistics community of the Sultanate.




Towards a new Africa-Europe partnership after the Corona crisis

The coronavirus crisis presents an extraordinary global challenge. With Europe now at the epicenter, the response of the European Union has been hotly debated, raising fundamental questions about the EU’s solidarity and credibility.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that the EU looks beyond its borders and delivers the global leadership this crisis demands, particularly in the relation with Africa as its closest neighbor.

The EU can do so by supporting major economic recovery programs that are environmentally sustainable, by helping to build effective public services and by moving towards a reciprocal interest-driven partnership.

In March, before the pandemic took hold, the EU outlined a long-awaited new Africa strategy with the ambition of forging a “partnership of equals”. The coronavirus now puts this strategy at risk and will be the first major test of the EU’s ambition. As the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “If we don’t solve the problem in Africa, we will not be able to solve the problem in Europe. Africa is of particular concern to us”.