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Brussels, 18 May 2005
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will travel to the Middle East today for three days of talks with senior ministers, officials and business representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. Commissioner Mandelson will stress the EU’s readiness to help strengthen trading links in the region and between the region and the EU as a means of contributing to stability in the Middle East. Commissioner Mandelson will make specific proposals for developing trade relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and on how they and other countries in the region can benefit from the proposed new system of regional ‘cumulation of origin’. Commissioner Mandelson will meet with, amongst others, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, Israeli Minister of Finance Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordanian Minister of Industry and Trade Sharif Ali Zu’Bi . He will also deliver a lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on ‘EU Trade policy and the Middle East’ on 19 May and participate in the World Economic Forum in Jordan on Saturday 21 May.
Speaking before his departure, Commissioner Mandelson said: “This is a time of renewed hope in the Middle East. But a political settlement will not endure if it does not deliver economic stability and greater prosperity for the Israeli and Palestinian people. The European Union has stood with the Israelis and the Palestinians in the search for peace, offering concrete support through its major economic assistance programmes. We need now to consider how we can go further and contribute in a different way to consolidating peace.”
Commissioner Mandelson’s visit will reinforce Europe’s commitment to helping develop trading links in the Middle East region and between the Middle East and Europe through the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean market in goods and services, reinforced by the PanEuroMed system of cumulation of origin. This will allow products sourced and produced throughout the Mediterranean region to enter the EU market on a preferential basis.
It is estimated that the introduction of this system in the entire Mediterranean region could increase trade in the region by 40%. The Commissioner will emphasise that the key to making this system work is the conclusion of free trade agreements between countries in the region.
Commissioner Mandelson will also stress the importance of strengthening the trade relationship between Israel and Jordan at the World Economic Forum hosted by Jordan. The recent Israel-Jordan Trade Agreement is a positive example of the potential benefits of closer trading links in the region and can be the foundation for further agreements. Mr Mandelson will also advocate the creation of stronger economic links between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.