The EU’s trade agreements

The European Union (EU) has trade agreements in place with a large number of countries and regions around the world. They aim to make it easier to trade by, for example, lowering or eliminating customs duties. Certain kinds of agreements apply only to developing countries and have a strong focus on supporting the economic development.

The European Union (EU) negotiates trade agreements on behalf of all its member states, including Sweden. This means that Sweden, or any other EU member state, cannot negotiate its own trade agreements with countries outside the Union.

Check if your country has a trade agreement with the EU

Check if your country has a trade agreement with the EU and what kind of advantages you could benefit from. In certain cases these advantages could be used during the negotiations with your new buyer.
Find out what trade relation your country has with the EU (EU Commission website)

If you are an exporter from a developing country, then most probably the trade relation between your country and the EU is set by one of the following types of agreements: EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP), Economic Partnership Agreement and Free Trade Agreements.

EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preference

EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP) is a trade agreement in which EU one-sidedly grants so called trade preferences to developing countries. The aim is to facilitate trade and promote economic growth in these countries. Trade preferences mean that there are no or lower customs duties for imports into the EU for products produced in developing countries which are benefiting from the GSP scheme.

The EU offers three types of schemes: Standard GSP, GSP+ and Everything But Arms (EBA).

  • Standard GSP is a partial or full removal of customs duties on many products (more than 60%) imported to the EU from low and lower-middle income countries. In order to benefit from preferences the exported products need to meet the specific rules of origin.
    Read more about GSP and the rules of origin (EU Commission's website)
  • GSP+ is a special scheme that grants full removal of custom duties for the same categories of products as above, but in this case the granting of preferences is linked to the ratification and implementation of international conventions related to human and labour rights, and environment and good governance. In order to benefit from preferences, the exported products need to meet the specific rules of origin (the same rules as for GSP).
    Read more about GSP+ and the rules of origin (EU commission's website)
  • Everything But Arms (EBA) is a special arrangement for least developed countries, providing them with duty-free, quota-free access for all products except arms and ammunition. A country is granted EBA status if it is listed as a least developed country by the UN Committee for Development Policy. In order to benefit from preferences, the exported products need to meet the specific rules of origin (the same rules as for GSP).
    Read more about EBA (EU commission's website)
    The list of all countries benefiting from GSP, GSP+ and EBA

Economic Partnership Agreement

The economic partnership agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners engaged in regional economic integration processes. EPAs are free trade agreements with a special focus on ACP countries´ development taking into account their socio-economic circumstances and providing assistance for countries to benefit from the agreements.

EPAs open up the EU market fully, meaning that the import into the EU of products from these countries is duty free for all products. At the same time, ACP countries benefit of long transition periods to open up partially to EU imports while providing protection for sensitive sectors. In order to benefit from the lower import duties into the EU the products need to fulfil the rules of origin in the agreement.
Read more about EPAs 

Free trade agreements

Free trade agreements (FTAs) are usually bilateral agreements which aim to remove and reduce tariffs and other obstacles for import and export of goods, improve conditions for the import and export of services and investments. These agreements create platforms for broader economic cooperation between the parties. EU has a large number of FTAs and new ones are under negotiation.

In order to use the preferences granted by a free trade agreement, the products need to originate in the countries that are part of the agreement. Rules of origin on the Access2Markets website

Countries like Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Vietnam and Mexico are a few developing countries who concluded a free trade agreement with the EU in the recent past.
Check out which other countries have an FTA with the EU (EU Commission's website)

There are countries with which EU has no bilateral trade agreement. In this case, if the respective countries are members of the World Trade Organization, then the preferences granted by the EU to WTO members apply for the imports into the EU of products originating in these countries.

Get further support

Contact us at Open Trade Gate Sweden in case you need help finding relevant information about the free trade agreement between your country and EU or in case you want to understand how to use the agreement.

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Open Trade Gate Sweden

Phone: +46 8 690 48 00

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