European Free Trade Association


When Sol Campbell left Tottenham Hotspur to join North London rivals Arsenal in 2001, the sense of betrayal among Spurs' fans cut deep. Almost two decades later, the England defender was still being labelled "Judas" by unforgiving supporters. It's nearly half a century since the UK abandoned the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) to join its economic rival, the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner of the EU – and some believe that decision was a body blow to the idea of an alternative Europe; one based on simple free trade rather than social and political union. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) today is an organisation of just four member states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It was set up in 1960 for the promotion of free trade and economic integration, with the emphasis firmly on free trade. At the time it was seen as a rival to the nascent EEC, a body of six European nations, including France and West Germany. The original members of EFTA included Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and the UK. Membership has fluctuated over the decades with five of the founding members, including the UK, leaving to join the EU. EFTA member states are, these days, part of the European Economic Area (EEA), which provides an extension of the EU's single market to non-EU states. In post-Brexit Britain, EFTA membership is being spoken of as one way the UK could continue to trade with EU countries, through the EEA. Critics of this idea say that the EEA is basically a queueing zone for those wanting to join the EU, so Britain's involvement would seem paradoxical. EFTA is not a customs union, which means member states can enter into trade arrangements with other countries. Though the two European trade blocs were once considered rivals, today EFTA is so closely aligned with the EU on so many levels that some say it can hardly be considered an independent trade body at all. This is firmly denied by supporters of EFTA, particularly the pro-Brexit lobby, who claim it to be in good health, and involved in "decision shaping" in the EU.

What trade deals are there with other countries and economic unions?

EFTA - Türkiye Free Trade Agreement (from 01/04/1992)

EFTA - Israel Free Trade Agreement (from 01/01/1993)

European Single Market (SM) (from 01/01/1993)

EFTA - Morocco Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/1999)

EFTA - Palestinian Authority Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/1999)

EFTA - Mexico Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/2001)

EFTA - North Macedonia Free Trade Agreement (from 01/05/2002)

EFTA - Jordan Free Trade Agreement (from 01/09/2002)

EFTA - Singapore Free Trade Agreement (from 01/01/2003)

EFTA - Chile Free Trade Agreement (from 01/12/2004)

EFTA - Tunisia Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/2005)

SACU - EFTA free trade agreement (from 01/07/2006)

EFTA - Korea, Republic of Free Trade Agreement (from 01/10/2006)

EFTA - Lebanon Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/2007)

EFTA - Egypt Free Trade Agreement (from 01/08/2007)

EFTA - Canada Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/2009)

EFTA - Albania Free Trade Agreement (from 01/10/2011)

EFTA - Serbia Free Trade Agreement (from 01/10/2011)

EFTA - Peru Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/2012)

EFTA - Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement (from 01/11/2012)

EFTA - Montenegro Free Trade Agreement (from 01/11/2012)

EFTA - Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement (from 01/07/2014)

EFTA - Gulf Cooperation Council free trade agreement (from 01/07/2014)

EFTA - Central America Free Trade Agreement (from 05/09/2014)

EFTA - Colombia Free Trade Agreement (from 01/10/2014)

EFTA - Bosnia and Herzegovina Free Trade Agreement (from 01/01/2015)

EFTA - Georgia Free Trade Agreement (from 01/05/2018)

EFTA - Philippines Free Trade Agreement (from 01/06/2018)

EFTA - Ecuador free trade agreement (from 01/11/2020)

EFTA - Indonesia free trade agreement (from 01/11/2021)

Member Countries

Population (2018)
GDP Growth (2021, %)
Date Joined

When It Pours, Rainy Day Funds Help – A Little

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have joined the increasingly crowded ranks of countries

Brexit: Fishing in Troubled Waters

It’s perhaps a case of having your fish and eating it too. The number of analogies

Recovering the Magdalena River Waterway: Challenge Accepted

Historically, Colombia has suffered from a deficient and incomplete transportation network that isolated the country from