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Trade talks derail between EU, Andean bloc

Dow Jones Newswires | Tuesday November 11 2008

Trade Talks Derail Between EU, Andean Bloc

By Leslie Josephs

LIMA — Talks for a trade agreement between the European Union and the Andean Community trade bloc have derailed, a top European Commission official said Tuesday.

Negotiations to lower tariffs will continue with Colombia and Peru, two pro-free-trade members of the Andean bloc, said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations.

"Colombia and Peru have shown on repeated occasions that they are willing to advance with trade negotiations with the E.U.," Ferrero-Waldner said in Brussels after meeting with the foreign ministers of Colombia and Peru.

"The meeting has allowed me to affirm that it has not been possible for the Andean countries to reach a consensus on a position with respect to how to allow negotiations for the association agreement to continue," she said. "Faced with the lack of conditions to continue region-to-region negotiations, I think we should take this route."

The Andean Community’s trade surplus with the European Union has totaled $1.06 billion so far this year, and $2.99 billion last year, according to the South American bloc.

Talks began between the two regions in June 2007, but Bolivia and Ecuador had frequently complained that advances did not reflect their stances toward free trade or economy sizes.

Presidents of the two nations, vocal opponents of free trade pacts, requested that tariff elimination differ for their countries.

Luis Guillermo Plata, the Colombian Trade Minister, said in a statement his government wants to negotiate a bilateral, deep and ambitious trade agreement with the European Union.

The statement said the process will start Wednesday.

Tuesday, Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde told Radioprogramas radio he expected the agreement to be completed by July 2009.
Colombia and Peru have both signed free trade agreements with the U.S., and have pushed for the E.U. pact to move forward. Ecuador and Bolivia are much less enthusiastic.

"There is a deep divergence over the methods and the kind of commitments the Andeans would subscribe," Plata said.

He added the integration process between Andean countries would continue even though the bloc split on trade talks with the European Union.

 source: Dow Jones News