Does the EU really have 100 free trade agreements? Of course not

Only 11 real EU trade deals are actually in force, according to EU data

© Brexit Facts4EU.Org 2020

Brexit Facts4EU.Org blows apart the EU’s (and Remainer-Rejoiners’) myth about trade deals

Europhiles in the UK continue to claim that Brexit will mean the loss of 100 trade deals which the EU has negotiated with other countries. This report provides readers with the solid evidence to refute these claims completely.

On 23 July 2020, the EU Parliament updated its pages about the EU’s trade agreements. Here is what they said:-

Source: EU Parliament, updated by them on 23 July 2020, accessed by us on Sat 08 Aug 2020

So, the EU Parliament says that “The EU currently has about 100 trade agreements in place or in the process of being updated or negotiated.”

Readers will note that the claimed “100 trade agreements” bizarrely includes those agreements which are still being negotiated. Using the same basis, the UK’s Department for International Trade could make the same claim. We hope they do not, because it would be equally misleading for the public.

Readers who scroll down the EU Parliament’s page will find that even the Parliament has to admit that only 38 agreements are “in place”.

Source: EU Parliament, updated by them on 23 July 2020, accessed by us on Sat 08 Aug 2020

It gets worse for the EU

The EU groups its “trade agreements” and says
“There are three main types of agreement”

  1. Customs Unions
    • eliminate customs duties in bilateral trade, and;
    • establish a joint customs tariff for foreign importers
  2. Association Agreements, Stabilisation Agreements, (Deep and Comprehensive) Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership Agreements
    • remove or reduce customs tariffs in bilateral trade
  3. Partnership and Cooperation Agreements
    • provide a general framework for bilateral economic relations, and;
    • leave customs tariffs as they are

Taking the first category there are just three countries listed. Of these, the tiny states of Andorra and San Marino are effectively both part of the EU anyway. Turkey is the only real country listed as being in a Customs Union with the EU.

We can eliminate the final category completely. These are not trade agreements in any normal understanding of the term. They do not affect tariffs at all, by the EU’s own admission.

In the middle category we must also eliminate “Association” and “Stabilisation” Agreements on the same basis. Below is the official text we accessed from the EU’s law library for an “Association Agreement”. This one is with a country we picked at random: the Middle Eastern country of Jordan.

Association Agreement - Jordan

The aims of this Agreement are:

— to provide an appropriate framework for the political dialogue, allowing the development of close political relations between the Parties,

— to establish the conditions for the progressive liberalisation of trade in goods, services and capital,

— to foster the development of balanced economic and social relations between the Parties through dialogue and cooperation,

— to improve living and employment conditions, and enhance productivity and financial stability

— to encourage regional cooperation with a view to the consolidation of peaceful coexistence and economic and political stability,

— to promote cooperation in other areas which are of reciprocal interest.

This kind of agreement is akin to saying “Let’s be nice to each other and talk about trade.” Even the EU does not describe these as free trade agreements, although it includes them in the overall numbers. Some of the “Economic Partnership Agreements”, such as that with Lesotho in Africa, contain similar sections and only grant “Most Favoured Nation” status on WTO rules, albeit with tariff reductions in some areas.

So how many free trade agreements does the EU actually have in force?

According to the Trade Directorate of the EU Commission, only 11 out of the claimed 100 trade agreements are actually in force:-

  • Switzerland - Agreement
  • Faroe Islands - Agreement
  • Turkey - Customs union
  • Iceland - Economic Area Agreement
  • Norway - Economic Area Agreement
  • Liechtenstein - Economic Area Agreement
  • South Korea - Free Trade Agreement
  • Singapore - Free Trade Agreement
  • Vietnam - Free Trade Agreement
  • Mexico - Global Agreement
  • Japan - Global agreement

We have excluded “Association”, “Partnership and Cooperation”, and “Stabilisation and Association” Agreements as these are not real trade agreements. We have also excluded Andorra and San Marino as they are both effectively part of the EU. (The French President, Emmanuel Macron, is even the “Co-Prince of Andorra”.) It is possible to make a similar argument about the Faroe Islands in relation to Denmark, but we let that one stand.

There are of course trade deals which are not yet in force, but is America, China, or India on the list? No.


The pro-EU lobby will naturally take issue with the above. The problem they have is the EU’s own declarations and descriptions of its agreements. The EU may wish to headline “100 trade agreements”, but what the British people and British businesses care about is what affects them.

We have taken a fairly firm view on what constitutes a “trade deal in force”, but we have used the EU Trade Directorates’s own data. We have also used their list for “trade deals in force”. The only removals are for what most reasonable people would consider to be double-counting (eg Andorra) and agreements which aren’t really trade deals at all.

The reality of the EU Commission’s efforts at doing trade deals is very, very different from the EU’s propaganda.

If you would like us to continue to expose the myths about the EU in this way, and to stiffen the resolve of the Government to deliver a fully-free, sovereign, and independent United Kingdom on 31 Dec 2020, please support our work with a donation. No other Brexit organisation has produced the quantity of facts we have researched and published over the past five years. Quick, secure, and confidential donation links are provided below. Thank you so much if you can help to keep us going in these final months. If you haven’t already donated, can we ask you to consider this today?

[ Sources: EU Parliament | EU Commission Trade Directorate ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Sat, 08 Aug 2020

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