The preface (other languages), published in November 2020 by Sabine Weyand, Director-General of DG Trade, provides an overview of the successes achieved in 2019 and the ongoing work for the EU`s 36 main preferential trade agreements. The working document attached by the Commission services contains detailed information under the trade and partner agreements. Although EFTA is not a customs union and Member States have every right to conclude bilateral trade agreements with third countries, it has a coordinated trade policy.  As a result, their Member States have concluded free trade agreements with the EU and a number of other countries.  In order to participate in the UNION`s internal market, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are contracting parties to the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), with compliance being governed by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court of Justice. Rather, Switzerland has a series of bilateral agreements with the EU. Since 1995, there have been only two founding members, namely Norway and Switzerland. The other five, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom, joined the EU in the coming years. The original Stockholm Convention was replaced by the Vaduz Convention, which aimed to create an effective framework for further expansion and liberalisation of trade both between the Organisation`s Member States and with the rest of the world. The EEA Agreement guarantees EEA individuals and economic operators equal rights and obligations in the internal market. It provides for the integration of European legislation covering the four freedoms – the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital – in the 30 EEA states. The agreement also covers cooperation in other important areas such as research and development, education, social policy, the environment, consumer protection, tourism and culture, which together are referred to as “accompanying and horizontal” policies. The agreement guarantees EEA citizens and economic operators equal rights and obligations in the internal market.
The Council examines factual issues, in particular as regards the development of EFTA relations with third countries and the management of free trade agreements, and reviews relations with the policy and management of EU third countries in general. It has a broad mandate to study possible policies to promote the general objectives of the association and facilitate the development of links with other States, federations of States or international organizations. The Council also manages relations between the EFTA States under the EFTA Agreement. EEA issues are dealt with by the Standing Committee in Brussels. Switzerland is not part of the EEA agreement, but has a number of bilateral agreements with the EU. For more information on these agreements, please visit the website of the European Commission and the website of the Swiss Federal Administration. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organisation and free trade area composed of four European countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.