OEEC.FTA Free Trade Area - Working Party No. 21 of the Council

Documents from [1955] to [1957]

Identity Statement

Reference Code
Extent and Medium

47 files, 1 microfilm

Reference Archivists

Mary, Carr


Administrative and Biographical History

Since the OEEC came into being one of the necessary conditions for achieving its objectives was a greater degree of freedom in external trade so as to promote production and a return to stability and a sound balance of payments situation. In freeing trade the OEEC felt it necessary to abolish quantitative restrictions. The method in carrying this out lay in a system of percentages of liberalisation;The Organisation had to adopt a series of decisions clearly defining the rights and obligations of member countries regarding the liberalisation of trade, this was done through the Code of Liberalisation, a code which laid down the rules to be observed among its member in their trade relations. However, there was a need for action on tariffs so that the obligations on members to liberalise trade could be followed through. The Council of Ministers of the OEEC decided to investigate the possibility of creating a Free Trade Area in Europe, which would associate the Customs Union of the EEC with the other OEEC member countries on a multilateral basis. In this Free Trade Area all duties and restrictions were abolished but unlike the Common Market. it did not have an external tariff in common. The Council of Ministers published the results of their study on a FTA in 1957 and it appointed 3 working parties to oversee the tasks involved, ie. enter into negotiations with EEC to deterimine the conditions for establishing a European Free Trade Area (FTA-Working Party No. 21), consideration into agricultural products and trade, (FTB -Working Party No. 22) and the third to study the position of less-developed countries, (FTC-Working Party No. 23). These working parties began work in 1957 to draft a Convention instituting the FTA in parallel with the EEC.;By the time the Trade Liberalisation Programme was terminated in 1960 most countries had greatly liberalised their internal trade.

Content and Structure


Series of files dealing with the negotiations for the Free Trade Area and its aftermath. The documentation on the negotiations themselves is very fragmentary but what the files do provide is a unique opportunity to follow the evolution of thinking within the top of the OEEC towards events as they unravel, and the development of a policy response.
The files commence in 1956 at the time when the OEEC Secretary-General René Sergent drew the member countries attention to the "considerable danger" of a close bilateral association between the Common Market and other countries individually, which would be detrimental to the work of OEEC and to the general structure of trade and payments in Europe.
In particular the concern of the OEEC was to encourage dialogue on the need to take action on the common external tarifs imposed on products coming from non-Common Market but OEEC countries, so that obligations to liberalise trade could be consolidated and extended. Additionally, there was also anxiety within the OEEC that Europe might be split into two groups on the commercial plane.

Allied Materials

Location of Originals
Existence of Copies
Historical Archives of the European Union

We have digital copies only of selected OEEC documents

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