Palestinians to export direct to EU, avoiding Israel

Palestinians to export direct to EU, avoiding IsraelThe Palestinian Authority will be able to export agricultural and fisheries products directly to the European Union from next year, under a trade deal approved by MEPs.

Until now, Palestinian exports have been controlled by Israeli customs authorities. But the European Parliament voted today to give Gaza and the West Bank duty-free and mostly quota-free access to EU farm and fishery markets. It also opens up Palestinian markets for some European goods.

Describing the agreement, which will enter into force next year, as a “first step towards the development of a nation,” Socialist and Democrat group MEP Maria Eleni Koppi said the Palestinian economy would benefit fully from the expansion in trade.

The deal received a caution welcome from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in parliament. Paul Murphy MEP said that, “if implemented, it could provide a level of assistance to the Palestinian people” – but added that its effects would be limited.

“While the EU can abolish tariffs on goods coming from the occupied territories, the difficulty is getting the goods out in the first place”. He denounced Israel’s blockade on Gaza as a “disastrous humanitarian catastrophe” leading to the “deliberate destruction of their economy”.

He said 500 checkpoints delaying and obstructing exports would also limit the benefits of the deal on the West Bank. “If the EU is serious about assisting the Palestinian people, gestures like this are simply not enough. It must end its complicity with the Israeli occupation,” he said.

In 2009 trade between the EU and Palestine totalled €56.6m, of which €50.5m were EU exports. Of the €6.1m Palestinian products, more than 70 per cent were agricultural. The new deal can be extended after 10 years.

The Palestinian Authority is in the process of seeking United Nations Security Council recognition as a state, after presenting its case at the general assembly last week. But the United States has said it will veto the proposal, while EU countries have been divided on the issue.

( / 27.09.2011)

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