Summary: January 11, 2005: EU/Iran Negotiations for Trade & Cooperation Agreement to restart on 12 January (Brussels)
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The European Commission will resume negotiations with Iran for a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in Brussels on 12 January 2005. The decision to resume TCA negotiations follows the "Paris agreement" between Iran and the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and the subsequent verification of the suspension of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing activities as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution of November 2004. Negotiations relating to political dialogue and counter-terrorism will be held in parallel with the TCA discussions on 13 January.
Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said "The resumption of these negotiations is a clear signal of our wish to work with Iran. These talks are an important element of a wider package. Iran can look forward to a richer relationship with the European Union, as long as the international community can be confident that Iran's nuclear programme is not being developed for military purposes".
The TCA will be a non-preferential Agreement focussed on economic and financial co-operation and on greater trade liberalization between the EU and Iran. In the light of Iran's stated objective of accession to the WTO, the Agreement will support Iran's adaptation to WTO rules, particularly in areas such as intellectual property, public procurement and health and safety standards. The Agreement will pave the way for closer co-operation in the areas of energy, transport, the environment, drugs control, asylum and migration.
The negotiation and conclusion of the agreement will help develop economic exchanges and cooperation with Iran, and strengthen the process of political and economic reform.
The deepening of economic and commercial relations between the EU and Iran should be matched by progress in other aspects of the EU's relationship with this country, and all phases of the negotiations of the TCA are conducted in parallel with a political dialogue. The two components make up one package, consisting of these two interdependent and mutually reinforcing elements, and one cannot be concluded without the other.
The TCA negotiations were initially launched in Brussels on 12 December 2002, following the adoption by the Council in summer 2002 of the relevant negotiating directives. The fourth and latest round of talks took place in Tehran on 2-3 June 2003, back to back with a third negotiating round on the parallel "political" agreement.
The Council conclusions of 16 June 2003 led to an overall stock-taking situation, against the background of perceived limited Iranian progress in four areas of concern focusing on weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, the Middle East, and human rights, with a particular emphasis on outstanding questions relating to the nature and scope of Iran's nuclear programme. As a consequence, no further negotiating rounds were held until the Commission, in view of the conclusions adopted by the External Relations Council of December 2004 decided that conditions were ripe to re-launch the talks.
The EU is Iran's main trading partner, accounting for around 30% of its total trade. Main EU imports are energy, agricultural products and textiles and clothing. Primary EU exports to Iran are machinery, transport material and chemical products.