Free-Trade Agreement Negotiations Stagnate

February 27, 2004

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – Negotiations for a free-trade agreement between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Canada came to a stalemate at the last meeting in Ottawa on Friday, Honduran officials announced Wednesday.

“There were no important results in the last meeting, rather, it gave the impression it had stagnated,” said Honduran Chief Negotiator Melvin Redondo.

He described the last three years of talks as “poor” and said Canada took a rigid stance at the last meeting.

FOR example, the negotiator said, Canada demanded agricultural quotas similar to those that the Central American countries gave to the United States in the Central American Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA). But Honduras established those quotas based on the demand from the Honduran market.

“If we gave Canada the same quota we would be hurting our national producers,”Redondo said.

Honduran Minister of Industry and Commerce, Norman García, said the Canadian proposal is “not attractive.”

“THE Canadians are practically saying: allow 80% of what we send there to enter free of tariffs and 20% of what you send will enter without tariffs,” García said.

The next meeting – the eleventh since negotiations began three years ago – will probably take place in June in Guatemala, Redondo said.

Costa Rica has had a free-trade agreement with Canada since 2002 and is the only Central American country to have one.

 

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