Trade officials from Central America and the European Union negotiated an agreement this week to reduce trade barriers and increase political cooperation.
Meeting in El Salvador for a third round of negotiations, Costa Rican trade officials hashed over the 12-chapter agreement with counterparts from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and the EU.
The accord will include three sections on trade, political dialogue and EU development aid to Central America. Both regions have suggested a draft of each chapter, and officials worked toward a final version at the meeting April 14-18.
Central America is asking that negotiations finish by the first semester of 2009.
The first two rounds took place in San José in October 2007 and Brussels in February 2008, and the fourth will take place in Brussels in July.
Trade is perhaps the most controversial point. Costa Rica and its neighbors are demanding greater and quicker tariff reductions than the EU has been willing to give – especially on agricultural goods like bananas and pineapples.
Central American exports to the EU in 2007 topped $2.5 million, according to the news agency AFP. Principal exports include coffee, bananas, pineapples, ornamental plants, tobacco and products used in fishing.