A regional trade organization established in 1960 by the Stockholm Convention, as an alternative to the Common Market. EFTA was designed to provide a free trade area for industrial products among member countries. Unlike the European Community (now the European Union), however, EFTA members did not set up a common external tariff and did not include agricultural trade.
The EFTA is headquartered in Geneva, and comprises Austria, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Finland is an Associate Member. Denmark and the United Kingdom were formerly members, but they withdrew from EFTA when they joined the European Community in 1973. Portugal, also a former member, withdrew from EFTA in 1986 when it joined the EC (now the EU).
EFTA member countries have gradually eliminated tariffs on manufactured goods originating and traded within EFTA. Agricultural products, for the most part, are not included on the EFTA schedule for internal tariff reductions. Each member country maintains its own external tariff schedule and each has concluded a trade agreement with the European Community that provides for the mutual elimination of tariffs for most manufactured goods except for a few sensitive products. As a result, the European Community and EFTA form a de facto free trade area.