Central America, the Caribbean and the impact of the European trade agenda

Radio Mundo Real 01/09/2008

Central America, the Caribbean and the Impact of the European Trade Agenda

The Latin American businessmen have long been lobbying for free trade agreements with the EU.

In August, Agence France Presse reported that the Central American business sector demanded the EU to pay more attention to trade in the region. Corporations organized a meeting of expert teams on trade around that time, to coordinate a joint position on the negotiations of an association agreement between the EU and Central America.

The demand arose because “there are still strategic interests of the region that have not been fulfilled by the European negotiators”, a communique of the regional businessmen reads.

They claim that “While Central America continues to expand its supply of products to Europe, the EU has not secured all the benefits from the Generalized System of Preferences Plus”. This mechanism gives preferential treatment to nearly 7,200 goods of the region of a total of 9,000 that already enter the EU. They also demand that the products of current exporting interest and potential should have immediate access to the European market”.

It remains unclear how the Europeans would accept these demands, when they are actually interested in having access to big markets. The businessmen demand to be consultants in the negotiations through the Central American Consultative Group of Economic Integration.

The tensions and contradictions of the agenda promoted by the EU in the region are felt in the Caribbean. The official position of the Dominican Republic, for example, is that the Association Agreement that is expected to be signed between the EU and the Caribbean will enable the country to go further in terms of market access.

The Dominican businessmen are aware that the Association Agreement will affect their country since the European will be able to export with preferences to the rest of the Caribbean.

Goods and services businessmen admit that getting equal conditions in the agriculture chapter is one of the biggest obstacles in the negotiation. They claim that the main reason for that is that many islands of the Caribbean depend on their small farmers and that the peasants fear being displaced by the European agriculture.

In fact, in the agreement between the EU and the Caribbean Community, the smaller islands that are part of it, temporarily received a waiver of responsibilities until 2005.

However, they have rejected the possibility of revieweing these matter over fears of dumping the markets with subsidized European agriculture products, something which undermined the agreement altogether.

source: RMR