European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
The EFTA Convention was signed in Stockholm 20 November 1959 and came into effect 3 May 1960. EFTA, which is a free trade association but not a customs union, originally consisted of seven Western European states as well as Finland which became an associated member in 1961. Iceland became a member of EFTA 1 March 1970. Currently Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are members of EFTA.
The EFTA Convention regulates trade relations between each of the three EEA/EFTA states (Iceland, Liecthenstein and Norway) and Switzerland. EFTA's trading relations with the EU are governed by the Agreement on the European Economic Area (the EEA Agreement) for the EEA EFTA states and in the case of Switzerland by its series of bilateral agreements with the EU. Furthermore the EFTA convention provides the basis for EFTA's collective free trade relations with other countries than the EU.
EFTA's Free Trade Agreements are now 16. EFTA's Free Trade Partners are the following: Turkey 1991, Israel 1992, Romenia 1992, Bulgaria 1993, Marocco 1997, Palestinian Authority 1998, FYR Macedonia 2000, Mexico 2000, Jordania 2001, Croatia 2001, Singapore 2002, Chile 2003, Lebanon 2004, Tunisia 2004, Korea 2005 and an Agreement with the South African Customs Union - SACU (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South-Africa and Swaziland) 2006.
In addition to those agreements the EFTA states had concluded Free Trade Agreements with eight states that have now joined the European Union. The EEA Agreement and the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU have replaced them. These countries are: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, The Czhech Republic and Hungary.
The EFTA states are presently negotiating free trade with Egypt, Canada (negotiations have been on hold since 2000), Thailand and the Gulf Cooperation Council -GCC (Saudi-Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Bahrein, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman). EFTA is also aiming to start free trade negotiations with Algiers later this year and exploratory talks are in progress with Indonesia.
Furthermore EFTA has concluded Joint Declarations of Cooperation (which may often lead to free trade negiations later on) with the following states: Albania 1992, Ukraine 2000, Serbia and Montenegro 2000, MERCOSUR (Argentine, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) 2000, Peru 2006 and Columbia 2006.
The Permanent Mission is responsible for Iceland's day to day participation in EFTA and represents Iceland in EFTA's free trade negotations with third countries under the direction of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and with the assistance of relevant Icelandic Ministries.