The European Union has agreed to open negotiations with its Euro-Mediterranean partners to further open up trade in fresh and processed agricultural and fisheries products.

The aim of the talks is to achieve wide-ranging trade liberalisation by 2010, as foreseen in the ‘Barcelona Declaration’ signed in 1995. The negotiations will cover all products as well as non-trade aspects such as rural development, technical barriers to trade, sanitary issues and quality policy.

“Trade liberalisation is one of the priorities in our European Neighbourhood Policy. The liberalisation of agricultural trade would bring considerable benefits for both sides, helping to generate growth, create jobs and boost investment. Of course, we must proceed gradually and take account of the genuine sensitivities surrounding certain products,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

In an effort to strengthen the Barcelona Process, Euro-Med Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed in May 2005 to recommend the adoption of a roadmap to reach a high degree of reciprocal liberalisation for trade in agricultural, processed agricultural products and fisheries, including non-trade aspects.

The negotiations should be concluded in sufficient time to allow the entry into force of the revised agreements preferably on 1 January 2007. This would allow the implementation of the necessary adjustments over a reasonable transition period, so as to achieve trade liberalisation by 2010 as foreseen in the Barcelona Process.