European Free Trade Association

views updated May 18 2018

European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The idea of an intergovernmental organization to reduce tariffs on trade between the non-communist European countries was put forward by Britain in 1956. It hoped to prevent the formation of the EEC, and even after ‘the Six’ had signed the treaty of Rome, Britain persisted in attempting to draw the EEC into a wider free trade association. De Gaulle vetoed the idea in 1958. Following this veto, the Swiss government invited those countries who would not join the EEC (Iceland, Norway, Britain, Denmark) or, because of Soviet disapproval of the EEC and considerations of neutrality, could not (Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria) to negotiations which resulted in the Stockholm convention setting up EFTA (3 May 1960). Finland became an associate member and Portugal joined the others as full members, who managed to eliminate mutual tariffs by the end of 1966. Yet Britain applied to join the EEC in 1961. In the 1990s EFTA reached agreements with the EEC, but by 2000 only Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein remained members.

Christopher N. Lanigan