Movimiento Boliviano por la Soberanía y la Integración solidaria de los pueblos: Contra el TLC y el ALCA | Wed 14 Jun 2006
Baseline positions of Bolivian Government for association agreement with the EU
Leaders of Andean Community Meet, Seek Extension of U.S. Trade Preferences
LIMA—The leaders of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) met June 13 in a special session to try to move the 37-year-old pact forward after the withdrawal of Venezuela earlier this year.
The presidents of the four CAN countries—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru—met in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, for the first time since Venezuela withdrew in April (78 DER A-10, 04/24/06 ).
"I think the most important thing about this meeting is that it signals the beginning of a return to normality. The CAN will once again start to function after a few months of paralysis caused by the withdrawal of Venezuela," CAN Secretary-General Allan Wagner told BNA June 9.
The two agenda items were the possibility of bloc-to-bloc negotiations with the European Union and asking the U.S. government to consider extending the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) beyond this December.
The announcement of CAN-EU negotiations for an association agreement had been planned at a summit of Latin American-Caribbean and EU leaders in Vienna this past May, but Venezuela’s decision to pull out of the CAN forced a change in plans.
Instead, the EU announced its willingness to continue preliminary talks with the CAN. A deadline of July 20 was set for the CAN countries to evaluate what is needed to start formal negotiations. If the CAN countries work out their differences, including establishment of a common tariff, talks could get under way in January 2007, and the association agreement, which includes political, economic, and trade chapters, would come online in May 2008.
"I am confident that we will define all the appropriate criteria needed for the EU talks by the July deadline," said Wagner.
Moving Forward on EU Talks
"We are pleased to let you know that the Andean countries have decided to move forward the process that will lead to negotiations of an association agreement between the Andean Community and European Union," read a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso signed by the four Andean leaders.
The Andean countries, including Venezuela, benefit from the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences for developing economies. It allows them to export approximately 7,200 products tariff-free for a 10-year period.
The relationship of the CAN members with the United States is what sparked the crisis that led to Venezuela’s withdrawal. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pulled his country from the CAN after Peru and Colombia concluded free trade agreements with the United States, arguing that these bilateral deals undermined the regional organization’s foundation.
Deliberations Start in Peru
Peru’s FTA was signed in April but has not yet been brought before U.S. congressional commissions. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) said June 13 that the Peru agreement, as well as the deal with Colombia, might not come up for a vote before the November elections.
The Foreign Relations and Foreign Commerce Commissions in Peru’s 120-member unicameral Congress began discussion of the FTA June 8. Congressional leaders in Peru expect to schedule a vote on the agreement in early July. They would like the pact approved before President Alejandro Toledo leaves office July 28.
Ecuador was also negotiating a trade agreement with the United States, but the talks were put on hold in mid-May when the Ecuadorian government rescinded a contract with Occidental Petroleum.
Bolivian President Evo Morales announced several months ago that he would never sign an FTA with the United States. In the meantime, he has entered into a trade agreement with Cuba and Venezuela.
Keeping Trade Preferences
Bolivia and Ecuador, however, want to conserve the benefits they have enjoyed since 1991 under ATPDEA and its predecessor, the Andean Trade Preference Act, which lets the four Andean countries export more than 6,000 products tariff-free to the United States. Colombia and Peru would need the extension if their FTAs do not make it through the U.S. Congress before the August recess.
ATPDEA expires Dec. 31, 2006, if an extension is not granted.
The four Andean presidents agreed to ask the U.S. government to extend ATPDEA. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will personally ask President George Bush for an extension of the agreement when the two meet the week of June 12 in Washington.
Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco said Uribe’s request would be followed by a written petition from the four Andean presidents.