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EU-certified pharmaceuticals could be exported to Israel and vice-versa without requiring additional certification in the importing country under a mutual recognition deal endorsed by the International Trade Committee on Tuesday. But to take effect, the deal must be approved by Parliament as whole.

Medicinal products certified in the EU would be considered certified in Israel and vice versa under the agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance (ACAA), a protocol to the 1995 EU-Israel Association Agreement.

This mutual recognition of certificates would remove technical barriers to trade, cutting manufacturers' costs and enabling them to get their products to market faster. It would apply to all pharmaceuticals except for advanced therapy products, special medicinal products based on tissues and cells of human origin, and medicinal products that include blood products.

The committee — which gave its consent to the ACAA with 15 votes in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions — was split over concerns, stated in an oral question to Commission in June, as to whether the conclusion of the protocol, which MEPs have been debating for more than two years already, could undermine the EU's firm condemnation of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

MEPs in favour of the ACAA protocol argued that it is merely a technical addition to the existing Association Agreement, which already requires Israel to observe human rights and cooperate with respect to the Occupied Territories. The EU also has a technical arrangement with Israel whereby goods produced in the Occupied Territories can be identified at the border and denied preferential treatment, they added.

Next steps

The ACAA can take effect only if it is approved by the European Parliament as a whole. A plenary vote on it is scheduled for October (tbc)

In the chair: Vital Moreira