7th round of EU-Central America under way up after rocky start

March 27, 2009

Trade talks between Europe and Central America were back on track Tuesday despite a close call when a Nicaraguan delegate walked away from the negotiating table after asking his country to be left out of a particular deal.

The seventh round of negotiations between the European Union and five Central American countries, including Cost Rica, is taking place in Tegucigalpa, Honduras this week.

Nicaragua requested on Monday a cooperation fund with numbers “not feasible” for the EU, which prompted a disagreement on the first day of negotiations, the daily La Nación reported.

Sanitary norms, technical norms, customs proceedings and access to markets have been discussed so far. However, as of Tuesday afternoon, the dialogue regarding vital Central American products and their access to the European markets had not taken place.

“We haven´t had the chance to tackle products emblematic to Central America such as bananas, sugar, meat, rice and rum, among other products,” said Roberto Echandi, chief negotiator for Costa Rica.

In addition, Central American delegates presented the EU a preliminary document on labor practices, which Echandi said is subject to change.

Agricultural goods make up the bulk of exports from Central America to Europe. On the other end, the European Union exports, for the most part, are comprised of manufactured products and services to Central America.

Costa Rica currently exports about $560 million to Europe and imports about $62 million.

“What is Europe going to do in order to meet the needs of Central America ?” Echandi asked. “That is the question of the week.”

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