The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was established in 1960 to encourage and promote trade among the seven member countries who at that time did not want to enter the European Economic Community.
Today the organization is comprised of four states; Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. In addition to promoting free trade among its members, the organization works towards establishing free trade agreements (FTAs) and joint cooperation with potential partner countries around the world. Much of the work of the organization is also linked to surveillance and follow-up on the EEA agreement that three out of the four EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) has undertaken. The three main areas; internal trade, the EEA-agreement and FTA with third countries, are all covered by the EFTA convention which was last revised in 2002 (also called the Vaduz Convention).
The Secretariat of EFTA has its main office in Geneva, which coordinates activities related to organizational, administrative and FTA matters. There is also a secretariat in Brussels dealing with the EEA-agreement, as well as a small statistical office located in Luxemburg.
The Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva is responsible for the day-to-day interaction with EFTA in Geneva and is also participating in many third-country FTA negotiations. Besides this, the Ambassador represents Norway on a regular basis in the Council. In addition to dealing with administrative and budgetary matters, the Council discusses the standing of ongoing negotiations and agreements, and approves projects related to technical cooperation.
The Permanent Mission is also involved in the preparations for the Ministerial Meetings held at the end of each half year, and participates with the ambassador and other EFTA-delegates. The chairmanship of EFTA rotates among the four Members. The last time Norway held Chair was in the second half of 2011 and the next period is scheduled to take place in the first half of 2013.
Norway negotiates most of its free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The collaboration between the EFTA-states has proved to be very successful in both establishing agreements of great importance to the member countries and continuously expanding its network of partner countries worldwide.
Due to its many commercial interests abroad, Norway is very actively involved in the negotiations and also contributes when it comes to identifying possible partner countries for future FTAs. The Permanent Mission of Norway to Geneva supports and follows-up on Norwegian interests in both respects.
See the map and learn more about the different types of preferential trade agreements EFTA has with partner countries around the world.