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Minister hopes negotiation timeline for EU agreement defined this week

Tico Times, Costa Rica

Minister Hopes Negotiation Timeline for EU Agreement Defined This Week

27 June 2007

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.

On Thursday and Friday in Brussels, ambassadors from around Central America plan to present E.U. representatives with a legal framework for the long-time-coming Customs Union, which would unify customs taxes within the region. This framework is what’s missing for negotiations to begin.

“There is a meeting Thursday with Central American ambassadors and E.U. high-level authorities to review this document, and if it meets expectations, details to begin the negotiations in October will be defined at a meeting Friday,” Ruiz said.

Central American ambassadors have requested that negotiations begin after Oct. 7, when Costa Ricans will vote on a referendum on the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

Costa Rica is the only Central American country that hasn’t approved CAFTA and the only country in the region that hasn’t signed onto the Customs Union, since a “no” vote in the referendum could mean the Costa Rican people disagree with the synchronization or elimination of taxes, one of the components of the E.U. association agreement.

In the event the treaty is approved in the referendum, Costa Rica would "immediately" sign on to the Customs Union, Ruíz said.

In 2005, Central America exported $2.2 billion to the European Union and imported $3.2 billion from the region, according to the Central American Integration System (SICA).

Costa Rica exported $1.14 billion worth of goods to the European Union during this time, about 50% of Central America’s total exports to the region.