Free Trade Agreement Current Affairs - 2019
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Prime Minister Modi was conferred with Maldives’ highest honour- ‘Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen‘ in Male, (Maldives capital) during his two-day state visit to the island country.
The prestigious award of Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen is Maldive’s highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries.
- Background: Maldives is a valued partner of India with whom it shares deep bonds of history and culture. In February 2018, relations between India and Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen took certain decisions which did not go down well with New Delhi such as imposing emergency, impositing restrictions on work visas for Indians and signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing. However, ties were restored under the incumbent Solih’s presidency.
- Recent Visit to Maldives:
- Although PM Modi visited Maldives in November 2018 to attend President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih‘s swearing-in, but the current visit is the first by an Indian prime minister at a bilateral level in past eight years.
- The two-day state visit undertaken by PM Modi was aimed at further cementing ties with Indian Ocean archipelago.
- Two countries held delegation-level talks as well as signed a slew of agreements to strengthen bilateral ties in a number of key areas including defence.
- India’s concern: China views Maldives as key to its Maritime Silk Road (MSR) project in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) for which China has already acquired Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and Djibouti in Horn of Africa. Thus to keep check on China’s ambitious expansion in IOR, India needs to continue its good relations and partnership with its neighboring countries having strategic importance in IOR.
Tags: Free Trade Agreement • Hambantota port • India-Maldives • Indian Ocean Region • Maldives' highest honour
European Union (EU) and Japan have signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). It was signed at EU-Japan summit in Tokyo by EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is biggest ever trade deal negotiated by the EU and creates free trade zone covering nearly third of the world’s GDP.
Key Parts of EPA
Agricultural exports: It scraps Japanese duties on many cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar as well as on wine exports. It allows EU to increase its beef exports to Japan and duty-free trade in pork, processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat. It ensures protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications (GIs), and protection of selection of Japanese GIs in EU.
Services markets: EPA opens up services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport.
Procurement markets: It guarantees EU companies access to large procurement markets of 48 large Japanese cities and removes obstacles to procurement in economically important railway sector at national level.
Automotive sector: It addresses specific sensitivities of EU in this sector and elimination of customs duties in transition periods of up to 7 years.
Trade and sustainable development: EPA includes comprehensive chapter on it. It sets very high standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection. It strengthens EU and Japan’s commitments on sustainable development and climate change and fully safeguards public services.
Data protection: The negotiations completed by both sides on this matter will complement EPA. Both sides recognise each other’s data protection systems as equivalent, allowing data to flow safely between EU and Japan and creating world’s largest area of safe data flows.
EPA removes vast majority of €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan and number of long-standing regulatory barriers, for example on cars. It opens up Japanese market of 127 million consumers to key EU agricultural exports and will increase EU export opportunities in range of other sectors. In addition, it will strengthen cooperation between Europe and Japan in range of areas, reaffirm their shared commitment to sustainable development. It also includes for the first time a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.