The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was established in 1960 by the Stockholm Convention (EFTA Convention). The original signatories were Denmark, Great Britain, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Later, Iceland (1970), Finland (1986) and Liechtenstein (1991) joined. Denmark, Great Britain, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Finland are no longer members of EFTA as they have since joined the European Union (EU). EFTA's current membership consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The Stockholm Convention establishes a free trade area for the movement of goods among the EFTA States under the terms of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Contractual relations between the EFTA States were for a long time limited to trade in industrial products. The Convention was later supplemented by an economic integration agreement for the services sector according to Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
On 21 June 2001 in Vaduz, the EFTA member States Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland signed an agreement on the revision of the EFTA Convention. The sectorial agreements between Switzerland and the EU from 1999 ("Bilaterals I") served as a point of reference for the revision of the EFTA Convention.
As a result, the EFTA founding provisions of 1960 were completely revised. The revised EFTA Convention establishes legal relations between Switzerland and the other EFTA States comparable to those contained in the seven bilateral agreements concluded between Switzerland and the EU in 1999. New provisions include, for example, the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the other EFTA States (with specific arrangements for the movement of persons between Switzerland and Liechtenstein). The Vaduz Agreement also added provisions regarding trade in services, movement of capital and protection of intellectual property.
The Agreement amending the EFTA Convention came into force on 1 June 2002, at the same time as the seven sectorial agreements between Switzerland and the EU, signed in 1999. The EFTA Convention has been regularly amended since then, in particular in order to take into account the development in the bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU (amendment of the bilateral sectorial agreements of 1999, conclusion of new agreements). The objective is to ensure, wherever possible, the parallel development of contractual relations among EFTA States and between EFTA States and the EU (bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, EFTA Convention, European Economic Area).