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EU-Central America

The European Union has been negotiating a free trade agreement with six Central American countries — Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama — since mid-2007. The draft negotiating plan from the EU’s side is available here.

The background logic to this is clear. As soon as the US signed NAFTA, the EU followed suit and made its own bilateral trade agreement with Mexico. Now that the US has signed CAFTA, here comes an EU deal for the same countries (minus the Dominican Republic, which is part of the ACP grouping that the EU is already negotiating an EPA with under the Cotonou Agreement).

The deal is dubbed an “Association Agreement” in which the FTA is one component alongside others (concerning cooperation and political dialogue). It is also a “progressive” agreement in that its provisions are phased in over time.

But analysts concur that such association agreements are even worse than FTAs: “The agreements are notable for their broad scope and their ‘open’ and ‘ongoing’ nature; in other words, they oblige the signatory countries in years to come periodically to extend the agreement and to undertake an undefined number of judicial, administrative, economic and social reforms, the aim of which is to provide ever more favourable investment conditions for European companies. As they accumulate, the changes will amount to constitutional reforms, which will be decided at ministerial level, far from the eyes of Parliaments and public opinion in the countries concerned.”

The social movements of Latin America have made their position clear: “The Association Agreement is nothing more than a continuation of free trade agreements. These texts are a farcical denial of democracy from the word go. Like the DR-CAFTA, the FTAA, and NAFTA, they are all tools used by big capital to exacerbate and deepen the poverty and exploitation of those who produce wealth by their labour. DR-CAFTA has been in force for two years and already we see our countries being inundated with imports, afflicted by rising consumer prices, and starved of tariff revenues, leading to reduced public spending. On top of this, the US has blockaded Central American agricultural products on spurious phytosanitary grounds. Meanwhile, the inhuman deportation of our compatriots continues. The enforcement of the FTAs and the neoliberal model is bolstered by criminalization and repression of indigenous and peasant agendas — particularly, the struggle for Mother Earth — through the enactment of antiterrorism laws. Therefore, we say NO to the negotiation and signing of the Association Agreement between Central America and the European Union: it is contrary to the interests of our peoples.”

In May 2010, the text was agreed to, and in March 2011, the text was initialled. It still needs to be signed, ratified and put into force by all parties: the European Union, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

last update: May 2012


CAWN action against EU-Central America FTA
Urgent action is needed to strengthen democratic scrutiny of the negotiations and ensure that the Association Agreement with Europe doesn’t worsen poverty, gender inequality and violations of women’s rights in Central America.
Little progress in EU-Central America FTA talks
A third round of free trade agreement negotiations between the European Union and Central America concluded last week with little progress on the thorniest issues, though officials said that they better understood each other’s interests and positions,
Costa Rica negotiates Free Trade Agreement with EU
Representatives from Central America and the European Union met yesterday, March 17th, to negotiate new trade policy. One of the key elements being proposed by the Central American committee is the lowering of tariffs imposed on certain agricultural products to allow for more competitive trade.
Central American leaders oppose preconditions for EU talks
The leaders of Central America Wednesday agreed to finish negotiations about a new agreement with the European Union by early 2009 - but only if EU demands for preconditions such as changing local laws are dropped.
Central America, EU face off on penal court
Central America and the European Union may have difficulties reaching an association agreement due to European requirement for ratification of the Statutes of Rome of the International Penal Court.
EU negotiations launch, so does opposition
As negotiations between the European Union and Central America over an association agreement kicked off this week, so did something else: opposition.
Central America’s poor and the environment will be hit by free trade with the EU
Non-governmental organisations have criticised the EU for its aggressive position in the bi-regional trade and political negotiations with Central America on the day the first official round of negotiations between the European Union and Central American countries begins in San José
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner visits Central America and announces aid packages
Three weeks before the first round of negotiations on an Association Agreement between the EU and Central America to be held in Costa Rica at the end of October, Ms Ferrero-Waldner wishes to send a strong signal to the region of the importance the EU accords to this agreement.
Beware Europeans bearing gifts
After the emerging disaster of CAFTA, Central American countries recently launched into a new round of trade negotiations, this time with the European Union.
Minister hopes negotiation timeline for EU agreement defined this week
Costa Rica hopes that by Friday a timeline will have been set for negotiations on an association agreement between Central America and the European Union, Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said yesterday during a press conference.