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EFTA (European Free Trade Association)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


The establishment of a free trade area for industrial goods by several countries which had not joined the eec (European Economic Community) when it was formed in 1957. Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Portugal were the original Seven who signed the Treaty of Stockholm in 1959: it came into force a year later. Finland became an associate (and later full) member in 1961 and Iceland joined in 1970. The aim was to reduce tariffs between member states in stages, as in the EEC, a process completed in 1966. Unlike the EEC, EFTA did not have a common external tariff, common policies or any supranational institutions, as Britain in particular wanted to avoid any loss of sovereignty. Small states such as Sweden and Switzerland benefited from EFTA, as they had access to the heavily protected large market of Britain, which provided 51 million of EFTA's 89 million population. The gains for Britain were much less: EFTA took only 10 per cent of British exports in 1960. EFTA could never be a substitute for the EEC, with its population of 170 million and so, only seven months after EFTA came into being in May 1960, Harold macmillan , the British Prime Minister, decided that he would try to take Britain into the EEC. Rebuffed twice by de gaulle , Britain and Denmark finally left EFTA in 1972 in order to join the eec (Portugal also left in 1985 for the same purpose). ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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