Operation Cast Lead’s shadow still hangs over Israeli-European Union trade
relations more than three years after Israel and Hamas conducted their brief war
in the Gaza Strip.
The European Parliament is yet to ratify a 2010
bilateral agreement on mutual acceptance of pharmaceutical products, in the
belief that doing so would contravene the EU’s post-Cast Lead policy of not
upgrading the 2000 EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Commission, the body responsible for signing the agreement, is insistent that
Parliament approve it as soon as possible, Luigiandrea Pratolongo, head of the
EU delegation to Israel’s trade and economics section, told journalists at a
seminar in Tel Aviv Tuesday. The delegation hosted the seminar to introduce
journalists to the Export Helpdesk, a free online service that helps facilitate
market access to the EU.
“We have explained to Parliament that the
agreement is part of joint commitments we have in the framework of the
[EU-Israel] Action Plan,” Pratolongo said. “We are absolutely convinced that
this is not a new element in the relationship with Israel.” The
commission would push its case when a parliamentary committee tasked with
monitoring such agreements convenes Thursday, he said.
Once approved, the
agreement would allow Israeli pharmaceutical companies to export industrial
products to the 27 EU member states without requiring European certification,
Pratolongo said. Israel is one of only two developed economies (along with South
Korea) whose exports receive preferential treatment under free-trade agreements
with the EU, he said. European and Israel officials are exploring ways to
increase cooperation, despite “the political situation,” he added.
2011, the EU was Israel’s main trading partner, with total trade amounting to
about 29.5 billion euros, according to the European Commission. EU exports to
Israel increased 17 percent to 16.8 billion euros, while imports from Israel
grew 14% to 12.6 billion euros. EU exports to Israel consisted mainly of
machinery (38.9%), while imports were mainly of chemicals (32.9%), machinery and
transport equipment (18.8%) and manufactured goods (16.1%).
anti-Israel boycott campaigns had made a negative impact on trade relations,
Pratolongo said it was difficult to see from the data because Israeli
authorities do not distinguish between products emerging from inside the 1949
cease-fire lines, which are part of the FTA, and products from the West Bank,
which do not receive preferential treatment. But trade has been
increasing since the bilateral agreement, he said, “so I do not see any impact
on the average Israeli producer.”