Algeria wants trade deal with EU reassessed

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Algeria is unhappy with the terms of an association agreement with the EU.

Algeria wants to see the terms of a trade deal with the European Union reassessed ahead of it officially coming into effect next month, it has been reported.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said he is keen for the nation's trade minister to "carry out an assessment ... of the dossier of the association agreement with the EU, which must be the subject of special attention, asserting our interests for balanced relations", according to Euractiv and Agence France Presse.

A free trade zone was established between Algeria and the EU in September 2005 as a result of an association agreement, with a 12-year transitional period for Algeria to phase out its tariffs on products such as industrial materials.

Association agreements represent a treaty between the EU and non-EU nations that create a framework for cooperation. They usually offer tariff-free access to some or all EU markets.

This deal was extended until September 1st 2020 for items including textiles, electronics and vehicles, but the terms of the agreement have been heavily criticized by politicians and business leaders.

They insist the agreement is unfair and detrimental to Algeria and works largely in the EU's favor. Indeed, president of the national association of exporters Ali Bey Nasri has said the free trade zone would be a "disaster for the national economy".

Between 2005 and 2017, Algeria imported €240 billion worth of goods from EU countries, with its main purchases being machinery, transport equipment and agricultural products.

However, its exports to the EU only reached €10 billion, leading to suggestions that the EU is failing to pull its weight and trade fairly.

The EU has not yet responded to the allegations and the calls for a review of the 15-year-old conditions.

Meanwhile, in exchange for the free trade zone, the EU is helping Algeria with the process of accession to the World Trade Organization, although its application for membership was filed back in June 1987.

Negotiations officially began in 1996, but trade minister Mohamed Benmeradi said in 2018 that the country "will go at our own pace".

So far, Algeria has conducted 12 rounds of multilateral negotiations and held 120 bilateral meetings covering more than 1,900 trade issues, but it does not seem to be any closer to full membership.