European Commission President to visit Israel in two weeks

Jose Manuel Barroso's visit will focus on the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) on pharmaceuticals.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will visit Israel, probably on July 8-9. The visit is especially important because Barroso, who has been European Commission President for the past decade, and is one of the most influential men in the organization, is making his first trip to Israel.

Barroso's visit is a major diplomatic coup for Israel, whose relations with the EU hit a new low in mid-May, after the European Council blamed Israel for the diplomatic impasse in the Middle East. Officials in Brussels involved in EU-Israel commercial relations told "Globes" that Barosso's visit will focus on the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) on pharmaceuticals.

Although the ACAA was signed in May 2010, the European Parliament has delayed ratification, for political reasons. "EMPs consider ratification of the agreement as giving Israel a prize, and they don’t want to give it," a top EU official in Brussels told "Globes. Leftist EMPs are behind the non-ratification of the ACAA.

The ACAA will grant reciprocal recognition of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals by the authorized agencies in the EU and Israel (the Ministry of Health). The agreement will lift trade barriers and slash drug manufacturing costs, because it will exempt Israeli pharmaceutical manufacturers from the need to carry out additional laboratory tests in Europe, and will allow the Ministry of Health to conduct periodic inspections of GMP and grant permits.

The ACAA will save Israel's pharmaceutical industry hundreds of millions of dollars, boosting an important bilateral trade sector. The ACAA on pharmaceuticals will also set a precedent for other ACAAs for other industries.

"The European Parliament is a purely political body, with no trade or economic considerations. Our connection with the Parliament and EMPs is critical, and we should foster it," Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor director of bilateral trade relations Etty Levy told "Globes" in an interview in January 2011 to mark the visit by 500 EMPs.

To block the ACAA, EMPs have demanded that it must not apply to laboratories located in the West Bank, and that priority should be given to Palestinian laboratories. Officials in Brussels say that this is impossible, both legally and politically. The ACAA, which has already been signed, explicitly states that it does not relate to origins, and any such change would require rewriting the agreement. "Politically, we understand that [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu or [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Avigdor Liberman cannot agree to such a change," said one official.

Other Brussels officials involved in the ACAA told "Globes" that there are additional reasons, beside politics, why the European Parliament has delayed ratification. They include the institutional competitiveness that emerged with the coming into effect of the Lisbon Treaty, which gave the European Parliament additional powers. "The Parliament and EMPs are flexing their muscles in order to show the European Commission that reality has changed, and that they have something to say about every issue. That is why they held up the ACAA with Morocco and Colombia, and, most recently, even dumped it with one of the Balkans countries, due to concerns about child labor in the industry."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 25, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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